Thursday, 22 June 2017
#TwoSisters #KerryWilkinson #Review
Megan was ten years old when her older brother, Zac, went missing among the cliffs, caves and beaches that surround the small seaside town of Whitecliff.
A decade later and a car crash has claimed the lives of her parents.
Megan and her younger sister Chloe return to Whitecliff one summer for the first time since their brother’s disappearance. Megan says it’s to get her parents’ affairs in order. There are boxes to pack, junk to clear, a rundown cottage to sell. But that’s not the real reason.
Megan has come to confront her family’s past after receiving a postcard on the day of her parents’ funeral. It had a photograph of Whitecliff on the front and a single letter on the back.
‘Z’ is all it read. Z for Zac.
I think the most striking thing about this novel is the protagonist, Megan. She is a complicated character with huge emotional issues which are revealed in the very opening pages. The novel starts with the shocking news that her parents are dead.
"I've screwed up because instinct is hard to fake. I should be breaking down, throwing my hands in to the air. I should have questions. The who, what, where, why and how. That's what normal people ask."
From the outset it is clearly established that Megan is not going to react to her tragic situation in the same way many others would and that immediately creates intrigue. It immediately raises questions about what has happened to her in the past, about her relationship with her parents and about why she appears so calm, unemotional and detached. It's a good hook for a first chapter and prepares us for a story with a character who is heavily flawed; not always easy to like and is not always easy to understand. However over the next couple of hundred pages she will reveal to us why she thinks, feels, acts and behaves in this way and illicit sympathy - or empathy - from the reader.
Wilkinson has created a character who suffers from a very complicated mental illness. Throughout the novel this issue is handled sensitively, carefully and thoughtfully. It is interwoven into the plot so it gradually reveals the depth of the characters unhappiness and why she has such need for control. At first I was a little unsure if it was really needed at times, but it is done well so I think my reservations were unfounded. This aspect of the story doesn't distract, dominate or add unnecessary melodrama to the main plot.
Megan needs control to her life. She needs to make her own decisions and feel as if she is making them - even when the reader is dubious about the risk or consequence, Megan is buried deep inside herself . She is so focused on finding Zac that nothing else seems to matter. Her search is almost obsessive and the new relationships she tries to form or rekindle when back at Whitecliff are dominated by her need to uncover the truth. Megan is direct, focussed and often unaware of her words and their effect.
"Last time I was here," I say, "my brother went missing."
With the use of flashbacks and remembered conversations, Megan's relationship with her mother is revealed which also shows why perhaps Megan's need for control is so strong. She confesses that "I don't usually let me guard down this much," and so the reader is once more intrigued when this starts to change. I think this novel is as much about Megan and her emotional journey as it is the twist and turns we look out for in a thriller.
This is a novel with a dramatic premise - sisters Megan and Chloe are suddenly orphaned and retuning to a family retreat to find out the truth behind their brother's disappearance. But it is also a novel that explores some very interesting themes like nurture, absent parents, siblings, control and the life of small communities. It is a bit of a slow burner and Wilkinson strikes a good balance between solving a mystery as well as following the emotional journey of Megan.
It is a story about two sisters but it is also about bad parenting, the influence of a mother, the effects of parenting and parental decisions. It is about lies, deception and buried secrets. There are also some interesting observations about small communities and the merging of superstitions and traditions that they believe or uphold.
I also enjoyed the setting of the novel. The beaches, caves and landscape are described clearly and add another layer of tension and suspense to the novel.
This is a psychological thrilling novel but it is more of a slow burner and tackles a lot of issues. I think this book could generate an interesting discussion in book groups about the role of the parent and the memories of her parent. There's a lot to get to grips with and the author is in not massive rush to get us to the end, which is a good thing because you will want to stay in the setting of this novel and stay with Megan.
Two Sisters is published on 23rd June 2017 with Bookouture.
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