Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs’ weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman. It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She’s having a baby boy—an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old’s life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional Southern family, her step-sister Rachel’s marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she’s been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood. Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother’s affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she’s pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she’s got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie’s been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family’s freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.
I’ve read and loved some of Joshilyn Jackson’s books, but my last one (Someone Else’s Love Story) was quite a disappointment, so it’s been a couple years without her stories. As soon as I saw this beautiful cover, though, I realized I wanted to read her books again. And I need to catch up!
The Almost Sisters was a thoroughly enjoyable novel, a weird mix of geek references and southern secrets that I found a bit incompatible, to be honest. On the other hand, I liked the book and I adore Jackson’s writing and her ability to make me care about the characters and their problems. She makes long books feel short. Despite the two very different storylines, I really loved the characters in this novel and was rooting for Leia from the very beginning. She was delightful.
The family dynamics were perhaps my favorite part of the novel, along with the Batman scenes. I admit that’s weird for me because I usually find myself more attracted to the mystery plot and the flashbacks, but while I definitely wanted to know what had happened, the book’s lack of focus on the secret made me shift my attention to the contemporary storyline.
This isn’t one of my favorites by her, mostly because I wish I had been more invested in the “secret” part, which by the time it got revealed, it was exactly what I was expecting. Still, it was a good read and I recommend it to fans of contemporary family dramas and southern stories. She’s always fun to read and this was maybe the funniest book she’s written: it still has plenty of drama, but it isn’t a dark book at all.
Edelweiss, William Morrow, 2017