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Sister Mine: A Novel Paperback – May 6, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. O'Dell, whose debut, Back Roads (2000), was an Oprah pick, returns with a terrific third novel set in a Pennsylvania coal country of broken families, altercations and smalltown coping. Policewoman-turned-cabbie Shae-Lynn Penrose, a little over 40 and back in Jolly Mount after a rent-a-cop stint in Washington, D.C., raised son Clay (24 and the town deputy) on her own. For the past 18 years, she has believed that her sister, Shannon, was killed by their abusive father while Shae-Lynn was at college. (Their mother died of complications after giving birth to Shannon; their father was killed much later in a mine explosion.) When a New York lawyer turns up asking for Shannon Penrose, whom he seems to have seen recently, Shae-Lynn is shocked; when Shannon herself suddenly turns up, very pregnant, Shae-Lynn's reaction is primal and tactile. As O'Dell slowly unspools Shannon's very-much-of-her-own-doing predicament, O'Dell demonstrates her mastery of set-piece dialogue, reeling off stingingly acute encounters that are as funny as they can be crushingly sad. Ne'er-do-well Choker Simms (and his two kids, Fanci and Kenny), lawyer Gerald Kozlowski, mine owner Cam Jack, Shae-Lynn's nonboyfriend E.J., Shannon's sort-of-boyfriend Dmitri and others are all wonderfully drawn through Shae-Lynn's keen observations. Family saga O'Dell-style crackles with conflict and a deep understanding of the complications and burdens that follow attachment, sex, love and kinship. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Past the wordplay of the title and the cowboy boot on the jacket, this is a masterfully unfolded, absolutely engrossing story as smart and sassy as it is wise. At 40, Shae-Lynn Penrose has overcome a mostly motherless, abusive childhood and a teenage pregnancy to finish college, work for the D.C. Capitol Police, raise her son alone, and return to her coal-mining hometown of Jolly Mount, Pennsylvania. Here she runs a one-vehicle cab company; her father died in a mine; her best friend, E. J., was one of the Jolly Mount 5, whose survival after a mine explosion made headlines; and her son, Clay, is a deputy for Sheriff Ivan Zoschenko (from O'Dell'sCoal Run, 2004). Then Shannon, the younger sister Shae-Lynn thought long dead, shows up and reveals an unorthodox means of making money that's causing a ruckus. Dealing with a burgeoning love affair and revelation of parentage, plus the surviving miners' intent to sue the coal company, O'Dell also examines such issues as abuse, betrayal, abandonment, perseverance, and reconciliation, with love at the heart of it all, in crisp, insightful prose that sweeps the reader along. A knockout. Michele Leber
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (May 6, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030735167X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307351678
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #851,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I stumbled upon "Sister Mine" at my campus bookstore, and like another reviewer, the first sentence sucked me in. Before I knew it, I was back in my dorm room unable to stop turning the pages. Shae-Lynne's gripping narrative provided a welcome respite from my Chaucer reading and the research paper I should have been writing.

This novel contains so much--pathos, laugh-out-loud humor, well-drawn compelling characters. My Chaucer professor has remarked that the difference between literature and popular fiction is that literature has cracks in it that are open for the reader to interpret. "Sister Mine" qualifies as literature according to his definition. For example, I have spent some time pondering what took place in the conversation between Clay and Shannon at the end of the book. Clay tells his mother "I realize after talking to Aunt Shannon that there are things about you I don't understand completely...." I have tried to tease out just what Shannon told him. How much of her and Shae-Lynne's childhood did she disclose? Did she confide her suspicions about Clay's own birth? But this ambiguous line, so open to interpretation, is only one of the many gems within Sister Mine.
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Format: Hardcover
As a native of western Pennsylvania, I have a particular appreciation for Tawni O'Dell's novels. I'd know her characters anywhere: The godlike high school/college football jock whose subsequent life reeks of anticlimax; the stolid denizens of the myriad of mining towns, the young people who left as part of the state's unfortunate "brain drain," as well as those who stayed home to contend with limited, depressing job markets.

Like Tawni O'Dell herself, the novel's protagonist Shae-Lynn Penrose is one of those who left the her small town (the fictitious and ironically named Jolly Mount)for the big city. Shae-Lynn escaped a dreadful childhood, an abusive father, and the apparent death of her younger sister to pursue an education and a career -- all as a single mother. Now she's back in Jolly Mount, over age 40, and driving a taxi. Her life is relatively good; she sees her son daily, although not always in the circumstances one would imagine. Her job allows her to know everything about everyone, and to administer her unique sense of justice as needed. One of those cab rides, an airport pickup of a shadowy New York lawyer, turns Shae-Lynn's life inside out. In just a few days, Shae-Lynn's tidy existence will be in chaos with the arrival of a very pregnant young woman, a housewife willing to pay any price for an under-the-table adoption, and a Russian gangster. Shae-Lynn will also confront, for the first time in years, the repulsive father of her son.

A key element of this wonderful novel is a portrayal of those in the coal mining industry. O'Dell creates a fictional version of the group of Pennsylvania miners who several years ago survived a harrowing mining accident. O'Dell tells what happens to these men, "The Jolly Mount Five," as well as their families, in the not-so happily ever after.

Sister Mine is gritty, tragic and deadly funny. It's written with love, and will stay with the reader for a long time.
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Format: Hardcover
Shae-Lynn Penrose is a lot of things. She's a single mom, a retired cop and the only taxi driver in the small town of Jolly Mount, Pennsylvania. She's also a tough-talking, hard-as-nails chick with a killer wardrobe, a keen sense of justice, a tendency to pick a fight and a backstory a mile long.

Part of that long and sometimes painful history is Shae-Lynn's little sister, Shannon, who disappeared without a trace from their small coal mining town many years before. Shae-Lynn has always suspected that their father, a bitterly unhappy coal miner with a recreational habit of beating up his little girls, finally let his abuse go too far and killed Shannon. That theory has to be revised, though, when long-lost Shannon shows up on Shae-Lynn's doorstep --- nine months pregnant, with no boyfriend or husband in sight.

Shannon isn't entirely alone, though; in her wake comes a rich Connecticut housewife, a suave New York lawyer and a Russian mobster --- all looking for Shannon. What has Shannon been up to? What does she want --- or need --- from Shae-Lynn? Does her arrival mean more trouble for Shae-Lynn? Or will it finally force her to confront some other demons in her past?

Although the candy-colored cover art and pun-filled title, sharp-tongued protagonist and mystery plot might make you think that SISTER MINE is aimed at, say, fans of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum, Tawni O'Dell's novel is far more sophisticated than it appears at first glance. Sure, there are plenty of funny situations --- O'Dell has a knack for writing fast-paced, vivid action scenes and other dramatic or comic interactions --- but Shae-Lynn's observations lend insight, and even wisdom, to the book's portrayals of place and of its many finely-drawn secondary characters.
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Format: Hardcover
Having read BACK ROADS and COAL RUN, I was anxiously awaiting the release of SISTER MINE. Tawni O'Dell's books are treasures and ones that you MUST READ. They do not disappoint!

What was a VERY PLEASANT SURPRISE for me was Ms. O'Dell's sparkling sense of humor and how funny this book is. If you read her first two books, they were WONDERFULLY dark. This book is FUNNY; however, it does have it dark spots, which is good! The plot moves and grooves, and I could not turn the pages quickly enough.

Meet Shae-Lynn Penrose who lives in Jolly Mount, Pennsylvania, a very small mining town. A few years earlier there was a near mining disaster there and five of her friends were trapped four days before being rescued. The book deals with all of these characters who have had to come to grips with their being trapped, their survival, and the long and rough road this experience takes them on. Shae-Lynn is involved with each of them in different ways, as this is a small town where everyone knows everyone.

Shae-Lynn has many demons of her own -- her totally mean, nasty, physically abusive dad, her missing and presumed dead sister, her son, and the town folk who, in one way or another, Shae-Lynn is involved with. Shae-Lynn is an ex-cop who has come home to Jolly Mount and now owns her own cab company -- which consists of Shae-Lynn and her car. The neighbors, friends, and town people you will be introduced to are all so different and all such good characters and the author makes them feel so very, very real. This is a great book!!!!

Not wanting to give away too much of the story, Shae-Lynn's life gets turned upside down as her past and present collide at full speed.
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