I’ve just finished reading Cathy Kelly’s novel Between Sisters, which very appropriately was a Christmas present from my own sister. There was a point when I literally couldn’t put it down – I just had to find out what happened. I was in tears by the end and I’m sure you will be too. This book is fantastic – it’s got dark bits in it but it’s ultimately about redemption, about strong and loving women who face their problems and come out the other side.
It’s written with the genuine warmth that is a hallmark of Irish writers like Maeve Binchy, Patricia Scanlan, Sheila O’Flanagan and of course Cathy Kelly herself. I have to admit to a slight advantage here: I spent my childhood in Ireland, so when I read a book by one of these authors I can hear the gorgeous Irish lilt of the character’s voices as they speak and feel as though a warm, comforting duvet is being wrapped around me.
The story is about two sisters – Cassie and Coco – who were brought up by their wonderful grandmother Pearl after their own mother left in dramatic circumstances when they were both very young. Despite Pearl’s loving care and the sisters’ outwardly successful lives – Coco owns a vintage clothes shop and Cassie juggles career and family life – neither one has come to terms with their mother’s sudden departure. Abandonment issues loom large. Coco pushed away the man she loved just weeks before their wedding and Cassie looks set to follow her younger sister’s example when her husband starts spending more and more time with his widowed mother.
The book starts deceptively slowly and gently, but the tension builds right up until the dramatic and very moving ending. It’s not what I’d call a fluffy read, it deals with some very difficult issues like alcoholism and severe illness – both physical and mental. But redemption is at the heart of the story and the warmth, humour and wonderful characters will have you turning the pages right up to the end. Who wouldn’t want to know what happens to Cassie, Coco and Pearl – not to mention the missing mother?