Sister of Mine by Laurie Petrou - Penny and her younger sister Hattie are living in the house they grew up in located in a small town, St. Margaret’s. Abandoned by their father they are raised by their mother who finds work as a clerk in a local store.
The Grayson sisters are very attractive and close to each other. As children they had a special sign between them at night:
…. Hattie climbed into my bed and we carefully pressed our hands against each other, fingers to the sky, ...
At the same time Penny has a lingering anger over Hattie and the circumstances of the sudden death of their mother when Penny was 19 and Hattie was 16.
Penny works as the director of a daycare attached to the local school. Hattie is employed by a beauty salon.
There is an aura of mystery about them. Two years after their marriage Penny’s husband, the abusive Buddy, is killed in a fire. Penny is haunted by his voice every night.
Penny and Hattie share a dark secret. They told the police Penny was staying with Hattie the night of the fire. On the opening page Penny is running from the fire to the family home to be with Hattie. Officer Iain Moore of the local police said that Buddy had consumed several beers and was smoking and the batteries to the fire alarm were worn out. Yet there is reference to Buddy having something more in his system and the unlikelihood a cigarette would set polyester floral curtains on fire.
More time passes for the sisters. Generally they keep to themselves. Penny is attracted to a young teacher, Jameson, whose left arm ends at the elbow. At a meal in their home it is clear he is actually attracted to Hattie. Penny puts her jealousy away.
They enjoy the hot lazy days of summer together. Hattie and Jameson fall in love. Penny spends a lot of time alone in the barn on the acreage she lived with Buddy.
Hattie and Jameson become a couple. Penny lives with them for a time. The emotions make it impossible. Penny moves out.
The secret strains at the relationship between the sisters. Penny owes Hattie.
Hattie’s call on the obligation is startling and challenging. Penny struggles with Hattie’s demand. How much is her obligation? What will it do to their bonds as sisters if she refuses? Would Hattie break down and reveal their secret? Deaths can be re-investigated.
Ultimately there is no hiding from the decisions made the night Buddy died.
Sister of Mine is a challenging exploration of sisters.
The death (crime) is part of the story of the sisters not the focus of the book. It was alright.