The Sea Sisters, by Lucy Clarke, is one of the books from Richard and Judy’s Summer Book Club (and as such, one of the books I’ve pledged to read by the end of August). I’m also using it to tick off a couple of categories of my Whimsical Reading Challenge – ‘body of water’ and ‘family’.
The novel starts as our protagonist, Katie, is told that her younger sister has died while travelling around the world, (This is not a spoiler, it’s on the blurb!) and after being told that Mia actually committed suicide while in Bali, Katie decides to shrug off her life and follow in her sister’s footsteps, in the hope of proving the police (and everybody else) wrong.
The narrative is split between Katie’s current day perspective, the entries in Mia’s travel journal and the occasional flashback. Sometimes I find this kind of ‘hotch potch’ irritating, but I thought that Clarke managed to weave together a pretty seamless patchwork of events, offering the kind of polarised perspectives only sisters can! (Just ask mine…)
From the very beginning we are made aware that both sisters have done something terrible to the other; we have no details, we just know they’re both crippled by guilt. The mistakes the girls made are not ludicrous, or hard to guess, but by only illuminating the reader as each sister finds out the truth, Clarke helps us to bond with her characters. In fact, even though I knew how Mia’s story was going to end, I was desperate for it to be different. I wanted them living happily ever after in a house full of cats. I pretty much convinced myself that Katie was going to get to Bali and discover that it was actually Mia’s doppelgänger that had mysteriously died.
This book provides a great example of ‘background love triangles’, in other words, love triangles that a merely a sub-plot, not a virus that pushes everything else into the shadows. Clarke made reference to my favourite kind of love triangle (don’t you agree Paola?), the mobile octagon. The overlapping feelings and general confusion were totally accurate representations of actual love and relationships, and really helped reinforce the bubble of intense emotion already surrounding this story. The couples we root for changes multiple times, and there is definitely no clear-cut ’winner’ from the get go… all made for good reading!
The Sea Sisters is predominantly a story of self-discovery, and how we’re forced into action by life itself. We have no control over grief, betrayal, guilt or love, the thing that creates ‘character’ is the way we deal with all the messy stuff that gets hurled at us. Was it heartbreaking? Yes. Bittersweet? Definitely. More than that, it was just a beautiful, beautiful book. Now go read it.