In Hannah Mary McKinnon’s psychological thriller, SISTER DEAR (MIRA Trade; May 26, 2020; $17.99), the obsession of Single White Female meets the insidiousness of You, in a twisted fable about the ease of letting in those who wish us harm, and that mistake’s dire consequences.
The day he dies, Eleanor Hardwicke discovers her father – the only person who has ever loved her – is not her father. Instead, her biological father is a wealthy Portland businessman who wants nothing to do with her and to continue his life as if she doesn’t exist. That isn’t going to work for Eleanor.
Eleanor decides to settle the score. So, she befriends his daughter Victoria, her perfect, beautiful, carefree half-sister who has gotten all of life’s advantages while Eleanor has gotten none.
As she grows closer to Victoria, Eleanor’s obsession begins to deepen. Maybe she can have the life she wants, Victoria’s life, if only she can get close enough.
Sometimes I read a book, and when I try to find the words to describe it, the only word that comes to mind is “Wow.” Sister Dear is one of those books. Most of the story is the calm before the storm – a fascinating tale of a woman trying to connect with a biological family that she never knew she had while learning to accept herself and her strengths rather than dwell on the distorted weaknesses. Then comes the storm, and it is a strong, unexpected, and destructive storm.
What I Loved
I love the development of the plot. Usually, I do not care for slow builds, and I questioned whether I was reading a psychological thriller a few times (you may too). But I was reading a psychological thriller. You must wait for it, but it is worth the wait. I have never read a book developed in this way, and I loved the freshness of the approach. It lulls you in just like the characters are lulled in, and then it rapidly spins you around and stands you on your head, leaving a lasting impression.
The main character and narrator is realistic and sympathetic. The adults in Eleanor Hardwicke’s life always told her that she was not good enough, and she lived in her younger sister’s shadow. She binge eats to cope with her negative emotions and negative self-talk. She appears to self-sabotage for reasons that are not apparent. Life never seems to go her way. Then, she finds out her dad, the only parent who has ever loved her, is not her biological father. When she finds out who her biological father is and that she has a half-sister, she becomes hopeful that maybe they can form family connections like she has never experienced with her mother and her other half-sister. Life is looking up – until it’s not.
Her newly discovered half-sister Victoria Gallinger led the ideal life. Rich, beautiful, the perfect husband, and two parents who adore her, Eleanor cannot help but feel like that should have been her life. Envy and jealousy color Eleanor’s view of Victoria as she weasels her way into Victoria’s life. And that is just the beginning.
To Read or Not to Read
To say more will give away spoilers, and I am committed to non-spoiler reviews, but know the last part of the story will leave you breathless and saying, “Wow,” just as I did.
Meet the Author
Hannah Mary McKinnon was born in the UK, grew up in Switzerland and moved to Canada in 2010. After a successful career in recruitment, she quit the corporate world in favor of writing, and is now the author of The Neighbors and Her Secret Son. She lives in Oakville, Ontario, with her husband and three sons, and is delighted by her twenty-second commute.