This summer, the story is all about sisters

My mom recently went on a vacation with her two sisters. No spouses, kids or other family members — just the sisters. They've done this a few times, I think. What a lovely way to reconnect with your siblings as adults!

When I was a kid, my siblings drove me crazy. We just didn't seem to have that much in common. Well, they must have changed considerably through the years, because as adults, I find them to be amusing, smart and all around respectable.

Books about family ties are always popular fare for beach reads, but this summer, we're seeing a big jump in popular fiction about sisters. Apparently, we all want to hear someone share their sibling stories, as all of these mentioned today have been on various bestseller lists:

— "The Silver Star" was written by Jeannette Walls, the writer of the enormously popular "The Glass Castle" and "Half Broke Horses." She comes back to the familiar theme of family strife in this one but mixes it up a bit in the story of two sisters growing up in the 1970s.

Liz and Bean Holladay are used to moving around, as their mom "found something wrong with every place she ever lived" on an ongoing basis. Mom is a free spirit and often leaves home for an extended time to re-center, causing the girls to become necessarily self-sufficient. At ages 12 and 15, they have been without their mom so long that the girls decide to take a bus trip across the country to see their reclusive uncle on the family estate in a small town in Virginia.

Life in Byler has its challenges, but the girls relish having some stability in living with their uncle. Money is tight, so eventually the girls get jobs doing odds and ends for a powerful man in town — the mill foreman. The man turns out to be a bully — to his family, friends, co-workers and everyone else in Byler.

Liz and Bean weren't brought up to cower from anyone, least of all a bully. When they decide to stand up to him, the other townspeople aren't supportive.

This is a well-written story of independence and redemption. Some of the characters were a little stereotypical, but the girls were well-drawn and I finished the book expecting to hear more from them in the future. I wouldn't be surprised to see Byler revisited.

— I always enjoy the books about suburbia gone awry, and "Sisterland" by Curtis Sittenfeld touches on this theme a bit with the story of Kate and Violet. Twin sisters with the ability to predict events and read thoughts, they grew up following two different paths.

Kate is a nice suburban housewife with two kids and a beautiful home. Her sister has become a psychic medium, and after a devastating earthquake hits, she predicts another one to hit at the New Madrid Fault — right by the St. Louis home of her sister. Sometimes Kate doesn't really want to know what Vi is thinking and spends her time denying any ability to do so otherwise.

The characters of Kate, Violet and the others in their world are so vividly drawn, I felt like I was walking beside them each step along the way of this story of sisterhood, motherhood and everyday life in the suburban Midwest. Sure, there's going to be a big earthquake, but that takes a back seat to the relationship between two sisters.

— Another popular title on the "summer musts" lists right now is "Island Girls" by Nancy Thayer. Beautiful Nantucket in the summer is the setting for this novel about the daughters of Rory Randall, a dying man who plots to have his children assemble for a long reunion. The girls each have a different mother, and the relationships amongst one another are a bit thorny due to a lifetime of jealousy and poor communication skills.

Arden is a successful media maven from a big city. Quiet computer guru Jenny just wants the other girls to like her, and Meg is a college professor working to complete a book. I felt like I knew each of these girls in some fashion from my own life, and it was fun to see them attempt to get along.

Adding to the stress of the reunion are the men in their lives, each of their mothers and the town's gossip mill. This well-written book was fun to bring along at the pool and distracted me enough from the hot sun and noisy crowds.

Hmm I wonder what would happen if I was stuck on an island home with my siblings all summer?

Kelly Strom is the collection manager at the Champaign Public Library. She orders books, magazines, newspapers, audiobooks and CDs.

Topics (1):Books

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