Judith Barrow is a mistress of dissecting the triumphs and misfortunes of families confronted with crime, disgrace and tragedy. In Sisters, her latest novel, she is at her brilliant best.
The Marsden family of Micklethwaite are doing okay; Eric and Eve, their two teenage daughters Angie and Mandy, and the baby Robert. There are the usual stresses and strains, the usual sibling rivalry, but nothing out of the ordinary. Then tragedy strikes, enough to damage any family, but when it’s exacerbated by lies and guilt, it seems the damage is fatal.
Resentful and hurting, Mandy goes to live with her aunt and uncle, Barb and Chris, in faraway Ponthallen (Wales is often shown as a place of refuge in Judith Barrow’s books). Mandy has a new life, new friends, even a new name, Lisa, anything to start afresh, but she can’t forget or forgive her sister. It’s no easier for Angie as her future turns sour and her life hits rock bottom. She runs away, only to sink further. Add to the swamp of misery the poison of abusive Stephen Birch, liar, blackmailer, controlling bully and corrupt businessman, and there seems no hope left.
Shame and resentment seem to have created an unbridgeable gulf between the sisters. It doesn’t seem possible that time can bring healing, but further loss might. The death of their mother forces them back together, but it will take a mammoth fight to rebuild emotional bridges. And the first step is to deal with Stephen Birch.
The invisible threads connecting sisters are always complex. Judith Barrow weaves a brilliant tapestry of the conflicting emotions that bind or separate, from tragedy and bitterness to forgiveness and love. Highly recommended.
Judith Barrow grew up on the Pennine moors in Yorkshire, but has lived for more than forty years in Pembrokeshire, and started writing seriously after recovering from breast cancer. She gained an MA in Creative Writing, B.A. (Hons.) in Literature, and a Diploma in Drama and Script Writing. Her Howarth trilogy, Pattern of Shadows, Changing Patterns and Living in the Shadows, was followed by a prequel, A hundred Tiny Threads, taking the story of the Howarth family from the early years of the 20th century through to the 1960s. The Heart Stone is another historical family drama, set through World War I and its aftermath. The Memory is a moving, split-time mystery, shortlisted for the The Rhys Davies Trust Fiction Award, Welsh Book of the Year.