☆☆➹⁀☆ 5 stars ☆➹⁀☆☆
What It’s About:
Sixteen years ago, Sylvie’s sister Persephone never came home. Out too late with the boyfriend she was forbidden to see, Persephone was missing for three days before her body was found—and years later, her murder remains unsolved.
In the present day, Sylvie returns home to care for her estranged mother, Annie, as she undergoes treatment for cancer. Prone to unexplained “Dark Days” even before Persephone’s death, Annie’s once-close bond with Sylvie dissolved in the weeks after their loss, making for an uncomfortable reunion all these years later. Worse, Persephone’s former boyfriend, Ben, is now a nurse at the cancer center where Annie is being treated. Sylvie’s always believed Ben was responsible for the murder—but she carries her own guilt about that night, guilt that traps her in the past while the world goes on around her.
As she navigates the complicated relationship with her mother, Sylvie begins to uncover the secrets that fill their house—and what really happened the night Persephone died. As it turns out, the truth really will set you free, once you can bear to look at it.
The Winter Sister is a mesmerizing portrayal of the complex bond between sisters, between mothers and daughters alike, and forces us to ask ourselves—how well do we really know the people we love most?
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Ms. Collins’ tale of family dysfunction and murder hooked me from the start. The web of family secrets ensnares both victim and reader. While the basic premise of this story might be tried-and-true in the mystery/thriller genre, the author gives the story a little something extra in the form of an interesting and unexpected twist as well as highly empathetic characters.
After hiding her sister’s secret boyfriend, clandestine “dates”, and bruises, Sylvie has lived with guilt since the day her sister’s body was found by the side of the road. Sixteen years of sadness and guilt later, she is going through the expected motions of life, but she merely existing. When circumstances force her to return to her childhood home, she must confront her sister’s cold-case murder, her estranged mother, and her late sister’s last boyfriend, whom the family has long thought to be responsible for Persephone’s death.
The story tension is taught from start to finish. The tone is morose and resigned as a result of each character’s respective guilt over their respective part in Persephone’s demise. Readers can’t help but deeply feel the loss of Persephone and how it has utterly destroyed her survivors. Sylvie’s desire to find the responsible party reflects her need for absolution.
Ms. Collins’ beautiful writing draws her readers into the chilling New England setting, the odd and unsettling family relationships, and Persephone’s highly questionable and disturbing relationships. I loved the symbolism within the story. The constellation painted on the family room wall starts as a representation of Sylvie’s idolization of her older sister, but it becomes a reminder of Annie and Sylvie’s role in Persephone’s end as well as a reminder of their personal stagnation.
Ms. Collins includes some interesting red herrings and creepy secondary characters that help to keep her audience guessing. Even if readers do guess all or part of the outcome, the journey is quite satisfying. Equally satisfying is the ultimate outcome of the story. Along the way, there are a few things that didn’t work for me, but overall, I was completely engrossed in this story. The Winter Sister is a well-written page-turner!
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