I loved Outside the Lines by Amy Hatvany. If I love one book by an author, I will certainly go back for more. Amy Hatvany succeeds at capturing the emotional and complex relationship between sisters in The Language of Sisters.
Nicole Hunter has what she thinks is a great life. Her career as a therapist wasn't as fulfilling as she thought, instead Nicole is trying to make it as a pastry chef. At home, her boyfriend Shane likes everything neat and organized. He's handsome and has a successful career as a prosecutor. On the outside, she has a life that most people would envy. But on the inside, even Nicole isn't sure this is the life she should be leading. Ten years ago, Nicole ran from her troubled home life in search of normalcy and happiness. But the guilt and shame from that decision have prevented Nicole from true happiness.
Why did Nicole run from her family? She loves her sister Jenny with all her heart, but Jenny's disability is too much to cope with. Jenny needs help with every aspect of her life. She can't clothe or feed herself. She can't speak. Throughout her childhood, caring for Jenny took its toll on her family. Her mother and father fought constantly over Jenny's care. But Jenny and Nicole have a bond that doesn't need words. A look, gesture, or sound from Jenny and Nicole instantly knows what her sister needs. Jenny has been in an institution for the past ten years, but even in her absence Nicole can feel when things are going good for Jenny and when they are are going bad. Something is wrong with Jenny, and now Nicole must deal with those feelings of guilt.
Jenny was raped at the institution and is now pregnant. What will Nicole and her mother do now? They are now forced together after ten years of estrangement. Life was normal and comfortable with Jenny in the institution. Nicole and her mother could live their lives without having to care for Jenny around-the-clock. Both of them feel like they didn't do enough to protect Jenny. If they were around more would this have still happened? Should they blame themselves? In the past, Nicole and her mother felt they didn't do enough to protect Jenny. Nicole's dad didn't seem to have the same amount of compassion for Jenny as the rest of the family. For him, Jenny was an inconvenience. He couldn't take her screaming fits or the drool on her chin. He took out his frustrations on Jenny. I don't want to give too much away, but his frustration led Nicole to believe the worst about her father. Believing the worst has been the guiding force behind much of Nicole's adult life. Her parents have long since been divorced, but Nicole has refused to confront her feelings regarding her father. It's easier to hate him than forgive him. If Nicole truly didn't do enough to protect Jenny, what does that say about her? It's easier to hate him than examine her own feelings or her own character.
Going home allows Nicole to reconnect not just with her mother, but her childhood friend Nova. Nova's home life in the past and in the present is the polar opposite to Nicole's. Nova grew up with two loving parents, who are also still married after 30 years. Nova is married with four children. Despite all the mess and the hectic pace, Nova has achieved a level of happiness Nicole could only hope to have. Shane doesn't want a life with mess or kids. Which makes the decision regarding Jenny's baby extremely difficult? Is it right to give up the baby? She already abandoned Jenny for ten years, can Nicole do the same to the baby? What about Shane? Will he stay if Nicole keeps the baby? If he doesn't, then Nicole will know his true character. Is he worth the trouble if he can't or won't adapt to change?
The relationship between Nicole and Jenny is at the heart of this book. Despite the years of separation, you can tell there is a genuine bond between them. Like all siblings, there is an unspoken language and bond between them and no disability can tear that apart. If you like family dramas like me, give this one a try.
Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Washington Square Press) in exchange for an honest review.