Latest review: The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

By Ekta R. Garg

April 21, 2021

Genre: Women’s fiction

Release date: April 13, 2021

Rated: Bordering on Bypass it / 2.5 stars

A young woman with sensory issues decides to give her sister the ultimate gift to show her gratitude for her support. As the woman delves into the tricky world of emotions, she begins to learn that her sister may have kept secrets that affect them both. Sally Hepworth builds an intriguing storyline let down by a major plot twist in her latest book The Good Sister.

Fern Castle knows two things for a fact: she doesn’t like loud noises or crowds, and she would never have gotten along in life without her twin, Rose, to help her. When the girls were 12, their single mother suffered a terrible accident that sent the twins to foster care. Now that they’re adults, they’re closer than ever. Fern knows she can count on Rose for anything, like helping her when she gets overwhelmed.

The feeling can sneak up on her if she’s not careful, because Fern deals with a sensory disability. Rose, however, knows exactly what to do to help her. For that Fern is always grateful, even if Rose can be a little bossy at times.

One place that Fern knows what to do is at the library where she works. She’s good at her job and is always happy to help patrons, even if she has trouble looking them in the eye. Her mentor trained her well and gave Fern the confidence she needed to become a librarian. Even though her mentor is gone, Fern isn’t going to let her down.

She won’t let Rose down either, even if Rose doesn’t know about her plan. After a conversation with her sister, Fern discovers that Rose and her husband are having trouble getting pregnant. Fern questions whether she would ever make a good mother herself. She has no doubt that Rose would; after all, Rose was always protecting her from their mother, from the verbal and physical abuse that Rose remembers so vividly. That convinces Fern that Rose would be an excellent mother. If Rose can’t have a baby, Fern will just have one for her.

Even with the best of intentions, Fern knows Rose may not approve of the plan so she doesn’t tell her right away. She has sensory issues, after all, not mental ones. Besides, she’ll have to find a father willing to go through with the plan too. As Fern begins to stretch herself by getting to know people outside of her carefully curated circle, she discovers that life may not always be as straightforward as she thinks. That includes the memories she and Rose share.

Author Sally Hepworth returns with her trademark depth of character and her engaging storyline. Readers will find themselves concerned for Rose and chuckling along with Fern’s practical, no-nonsense approach to life. Hepworth also highlights how a person dealing with sensory issues faces each and every day. Readers will applaud her focus on this little-covered medical challenge. The research and careful detailing speak for themselves.

The novel fails with the major plot twist about the girls’ mother that comes about two-thirds of the way through the book. Hepworth asks readers to change emotional gears in such a way that it actually stalls the story instead of propelling it forward. The painstaking layering of plot and character Hepworth undertakes to this point come undone. Readers will have a hard time making the switch and accepting the inevitable story that follows.

Other plot devices stand out for their excellence, and Fern will definitely win hearts for her tenacity. Devout fans of Hepworth’s books may want to check this one out. Otherwise, I recommend that The Good Sister Borders on Bypassing it.

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