The Silent Sister


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I listened to the majority of this book on audio download.  The novel tells the story of Riley, a 25 year-old school counselor.  Her father has recently passed away and in the process of settling his estate she unlocks some family secrets.  Once they begin to be revealed the novel jumps back and forth between current day and approximately twenty years earlier.

In the beginning, names were dropped as if we should know who they were.  It bothered me briefly but then either I learned who they were or they weren't really mentioned again and it didn't matter.  

On a scale of 1 - 5 (5 being a lot of examples/instances):

Sex:  1

Religion:  0

Gruesome:  1

Suspense:  1

Morality:  2

Traditional:  2

Sex - Ch. 3: Lawyer cautions Riley she might find evidence of porn on her father's computer.

Religion - I don't recall any references to church, neither positive nor negative.

Gruesome - There are few details, if any, but part of the plot involves a murder by gunshot and another part involves the idea of suicide.

Suspense - On pg. 259 we are thrown a surprise / distractor but by pg. 261 is is set right and resolved.  Then a second reveal follows quickly with no build up.  Finally Riley follows a lead on pg. 267 and meets with a two-week delay, which also turns out to be nothing.  There are a couple of other situations which a reader does want to see resolved and they do get resolved quickly and satisfactorily.

Morality - Many people aid in the harboring or escape of a fugitive because they think she's a good person.

Traditional - one girl, who didn't realize she was a lesbian, begins a relationship with a female

This novel had one of the most compassionate descriptions of suicidal thoughts I've ever heard, "Sometimes when a person is very, very unhappy, they forget that they'll someday feel better and they just want to end the unhappiness."

This novel also had one of the most hokey car accidents I've ever read.  At the end of Ch. 56 the driver sees a flash of a deer and jerks the wheel to the right, launching the car into the air.  As someone who lives in a rural area and sees deer run across the road on a frequent basis, I think a more common reaction is to hit the brakes.  And if a jerk to the right launched the car airborne, it seems like it would have to be on the edge of a cliff but on Google maps the route from New Bern to Goldsboro doesn't look that treacherous.

Discussion Questions

Who did you think the woman on the bank was in the Prologue (1990)?

Could your parents have had a career you didn't know about?  (Ch. 3)

It was suggested to Riley that she was adopted.  Even with her dark hair and lack of musical ability it seemed far-fetched to her.  Did you ever wonder if you were adopted?

Did Riley become a counselor because of her family?  When she was going through photos she told Lisa she was helping kids now.  How did your family shape your career selection?

Riley didn't like Jeannie Lyons and thought she was pushy.  Did you?  (Ch. 7-8)

Do you have trouble hanging out with your siblings?  (Ch. 8)

What did you think Jeannie had in the box she carried out of Frank's room? (Ch. 11)

Did you like Riley's or Lisa/Jade's story better?

Did you think Jade should've trusted Ingrid and rented the cottage from her?

At the end of Ch. 38 Riley left a voice mail for Suzanne to not record the deed.  Was that a smart move?  Did it work?

At the end of Ch. 39 Jade receives a lot of unconditional support from Grady and Charlie.  Was it logical?  Well-placed?

In Ch. 41 was it wise for Riley to contact Sondra, the widow?  Would you have?

The truth about Riley's parentage is finally revealed in Ch. 45.  Were you surprised?

Did you wonder about the statute of limitations for Lisa's crime?  Or if it mattered that she was a minor when the crime was committed?  If you had been on a jury, would you have found her guilty?  On what charges?

Riley puts a lot of faith in Danny, even though she abandons him to live with someone he doesn't approve of (trying to avoid spoilers).  Will Danny keep her secret or will he feel more betrayed and retaliate?

Theme Ideas

Serve shrimp, fries and bottled beer like Riley ate with Danny. (Ch. 4)

Serve lobster bisque and fish tacos like when Riley had lunch with Jeannie. (Ch. 6)

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