The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

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The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: Riley thought her sister was dead but she's not...she's just been hiding. Why, where and what now? Riley has to know.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: January 2015
Publisher: Pan
ISBN: 978-1447211303

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Her father dead, her mother too, her only brother struggling with the after effects of a tour in Iraq. Riley’s life is not the easiest right now, but with the mammoth task of clearing out her late father’s estate, she’s back in her hometown for the summer while school’s out and she has time off her adolescent counselling job. Riley is expecting to have a long but simple task ahead of her, sorting through things to keep, things to donate, things to sell. But as she rifles through a lifetime’s collection, she finds far more than she bargained for including troubling news about her sister Lisa who committed suicide as a teenager. Except, it seems, she didn't. With the help of family friends, reams of paperwork and an email history he never expected her to find, Riley discovers her father had been keeping some big secrets. Lisa didn't drown, after all. She took off under an assumed name with a new identity, never to be heard of again. It’s a traumatic discovery for Riley, especially without anyone to share it with, but the more she digs into the past, the more she realises how little she knows about her family history.

If I could only read one author for the rest of my life, it would probably be Diane Chamberlain, and I say that having already read most of her vast back catalogue. She has such a unique way of writing emotional, complex, human stories that are invariably multi-layered and with excellent twists. This latest offering is no exception. Told through the viewpoints of Lisa back then, and Riley now, this book has two unmistakable voices even though each is a 20 something female from the same family. The travel back to the 90s was great as it’s (finally) a decade I remember, after having read so many of the author’s earlier books which are set in earlier years. The pace of life back then isn’t rammed down your throat, but it is subtly highlighted, such as Lisa’s reliance on pay phones rather than a mobile. In Riley’s segments, however, it’s clear we’re back in the present, and a lot of what she discovers, the main flesh of the story itself, wouldn’t have worked in the not too distant past before we had access to Google, online records, email and other modern day necessities.

This book isn’t a gory murder mystery or hard crime thriller, but there are a few things you want to get straight as you read, and these facts are uncovered in a tantilising way, only sometimes infuriatingly so. I ploughed through this book in a couple of days because nothing was going to get in my way, firstly of getting to grips with the mystery and then of confirming my suspicions. Because I did have suspicions with this one. I had an inkling of where the story was going because of various things the characters said, and, I suppose, because I knew such plot twists would make for a great read, so expected them to appear. I like guessing where the story is going but with this one it did seem the hints were dropped a little earlier than normal, which also lead me to wonder whether they were red herrings. As it was, Riley’s family secrets were bang on what I thought they might be, but that in no way diminished my enjoyment of the story.

I especially loved the ending because I wasn't sure Danny could do what he needed to to make everything right in the world. The epilogue is stunning and could easily be the start of another chapter in Riley’s life. I really hope it is (hint hint). I didn’t feel we got to learn much about Riley as a school counsellor in this story, because it was set out of term time, and that seemed like it could have added an interesting dimension to this, or a future story. Similarly we only learn a little about her ex and then she is resolutely single for the rest of the book. She’s a sweet, smart girl who deserves to be happy. Let her have a love interest. Jade’s family are also only fleetingly mentioned, so I would like to explore that aspect a little more. It was so matter of fact, her lifestyle, but I imagine it could be a great read if fleshed out.

All of Diane Chamberlain’s books seem to have core themes, or keywords you might say. For this one, music is a big one, but so is family. Secrets and lies. New beginnings. Old wounds. There’s no one audience for this book because it has wide appeal, and I would highly recommend it.

Thanks go to the publishers for supplying this book. I pinched it off the Bookbag shelves the moment it popped up because I knew I’d love it. And I was right.

It's hard to pick a favourite, but The Midwife's Confession by Diane Chamberlain was the first book I read by this author and I adored it.

Booklists.jpg The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain is in the Top Ten Women's Fiction 2015.
Buy The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain at Amazon.com.


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