I always get really excited when there is a new Jane Green book released, I have become used to having a shiny new story from one of my favourite authors on my bookstand ready just in time for summer reading and this year didn’t disappoint with the release of The Sunshine Sisters in June.
This book is, like all Green’s books, a tale of family. It begins with an actress Ronni Sunshine preparing to end her own life due to illness. She is frail and in pain and has been storing painkillers and despite the reservations of her three daughters she has made her decision and she wants to choose how she leaves her life.
From this point the book goes back in time and follows the lives of Ronni’s 3 daughters Nell, Meredith and Lizzy. We follow the girls from their childhood with their famous B-list actress mother and learn quickly that their relationship with her is strained. Their mother is narcissistic and focused so much on her own career she fails often to pay attention to her children. She criticises them and her personality overshadows them and over the years she drives them away and sows seeds of disharmony between them. Nell, a single mother, chooses to run a farm near to her mother but is lonely and finds it difficult to form relationships. Meredith has moved to London and struggles with her self-image and is planning to marry a man she doesn’t love. Meanwhile, Lizzy, the youngest, is a celebrity chef who is cheating on her husband and is a risk taker who spends little time considering other people.
This book is about the journey the girls go through as they are called home by their mother for her to share news of her illness and about how they each have to face the demons of their relationship with Ronni. Ronni wants nothing more than to reunite her girls before she passes away and that is the fundamental story of this book, the desire of a mother to bring her girls together to support each other in a way she never did.
I read this book so quickly, I literally did it in under 2 days and I loved every single second of it. I though each of the characters brought something different to the story and the way their points of view were told was really engaging. Nell was strong and capable on the outside but scared of carrying the huge burden of her farm alone and lacking anyone to share her troubles with who would be there for just her. Meredith was the gentlest of the 3, second guessing herself all the time, scarred by a mother who always told her she wasn’t good enough and settling for a man who showed her the slightest bit of attention she was my favourite of the sisters and I longed for her to be happy and find acceptance.
Lizzy was the most complex of the 3, she was ballsy and most like her mother with a confidence in herself the other two sisters lacked. She had a different relationship with her mother and has forged a similar career where she is in the public eye and as a result she is repeating many of her mother’s mistakes. She was the one it was hardest to like but the one who Ronni had to all appearances the most loving relationship with but she was inherently a good person.
The emotion in this book was outstanding, Ronni is a character we want to hate. She’s portrayed as a pretty awful mother and yet in this book we learn that there are things about our parents we will never know until it’s too late. I also loved the quote from this book that I think bears relevance to all of our lives…..
“It doesn’t matter how many years go by, how grown up we think we are, how much we presume we have changed or evolved, when we are back in our childhood homes, we become exactly who we have always been”
That is the crux of this story that although we may move away and grow we will at some point come home and when we do family will be the only people who shared that experience with you of growing up in your home and only there and with those people can you make your peace with yourself and with those you love.
Another incredible and touching novel this is Jane Green at her absolute best, it’s just an incredible book and absolutely one of my favourite reads this year, it deserves every one of it’s five stars.