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Page turner with strong premise
on October 4, 2003
Author Hannah sets up an intriguing dilemma, one that will be familiar to many readers. Two sisters strike out in different directions, then come together again at a critical point in their lives. WIll they reconcile? That's what keeps the pages turning. But I believe the deeper question is: Why should they feel guilty if they don't?
The novel begins with big sister Meaghan, a hotshot divorce lawyer, being challenged by her highly-paid therapist. She's almost a stereotype: wealthy and successful with an unsatisfying, empty personal life. Coincidentally Claire, the younger sister, has just become engaged to a country singer. Naturally Meaghan's first thought is not to congratulate the bride, but to offer help with the pre-nuptial agreement!
Hannah begins by emphasizing the contrast between the sisters. Claire, a party-girl who dropped out of college, versus Meaghan who got a law degree. Claire, simple in the country; Meaghan, sophisticated in the city. Stereotypically, we're supposed to feel sympathy for Claire and resent Meaghan's heavy-handed intrusions.
Meaghan feels guilty about losing touch with Claire, but it's hard to see why. As children, left alone by a self-centered mother who stumbled into a starring television role, Meaghan saved Claire from a foster home with Social Services. It was Meaghan who ended up homeless, who put herself through college and law school. In the novel, I believe the Meaghan character was more well-rounded and more interesting, with contradictions that led to questions.
Following a bizarre episode in a courtroom, Meaghan finds herself with time on her hands. She visits Claire and volunteers to help with the wedding. Personally, I think attending a bridal shower with *games* is going beyond sisterly devotion, entering the realm of masochism -- a funny and sad scene, marred only by wondering why an experienced sophisticate like Meaghan wouldn't ask ahead of time about dress code.
After that the book becomes predictable. I don't want to give away the ending -- which most readers will figure out somewhere early in the book -- but by a series of coincidences, everyone ends up helping everyone else. A frog...er, bum...turns out to be a prince. And Meaghan becomes transformed. Pre-nup? No way!
Of course this book has to follow genre conventions, but I wish we had been exposed to a more complex sisterly relationship (see The Interpreter by Kim for an excellent recent example). Sure, I kept turning the pages, but it was like finishing up a gooey dessert. By the end I was ready for a return to meat and potatoes.
And what's so unromantic about a pre-nuptial agreement? Given the career directions of some of the characters, I bet everybody will eventually wish they'd had one!