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The Sisters: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 8, 2011

117 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Fans of THE HELP will be beguiled by Jensen's debut novel. Set in rural Kentucky in the midst of the Depression, and inspired by Jensen's own family history, it centers on an incident that created a lifelong breach between two sisters, one that reverberates throughout three generations. It's a sweet but never saccharine tribute to the pull of family."—Whole Living

"First-time novelist Jensen—tracing the lives of two sisters separated in their youth by a tragic misunderstanding—[has] an observant eye, adept characterization, and a keen grasp of social issues."
—Publishers Weekly

"A single tragic event shapes four generations of American women in this accomplished and poignant debut...Encompassing the lives of women in the 20th century, this sprawling saga is tender and satisfying, with a heartbreaking end."—Kirkus Reviews

“You’ll be drawn into the arms of The Sisters as if these women were your own family. You’ll want to hold them, warn them, betray their secrets. But this is a novel, one that is fresh and vibrant and complex. You cannot live the sisters’ lives, but only share in their joy and heartbreak and ultimate triumph. A remarkably powerful book.”—Sandra Dallas, author of Prayers for Sale

“Nancy Jensen has the natural story-teller’s ability to command attention, but with sophisticated psychological understanding and beautifully crafted writing. The Sisters is a needed novel that will become a very popular classic."—Sena Jeter Naslund, author of Ahab's Wife

“A beautiful and touching novel about the events and choices that shape not only our lives but the lives of generations to come. Nancy Jensen takes us on an epic yet intimate journey through eighty years, ultimately revealing the flawed but lovely landscape that makes up a family. Her characters will stay with us long after the book’s final pages.”—Brunonia Barry, author of The Lace Reader

About the Author

NANCY JENSEN, who received an MFA in Writing from Vermont College, has published stories and essays in numerous literary journals, including The Louisville Review, Other Voices, and Northwest Review. She was awarded an Artist Enrichment Grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women and an Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council, and teaches English at Eastern Kentucky University. The Sisters, her first novel, was named one of the Best Fiction Books of 2011 by Kirkus Reviews.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1St Edition edition (November 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312542704
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312542702
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (117 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #494,520 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nancy Jensen is a graduate of the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College. Her short stories and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals, including Northwest Review, Other Voices, Under the Sun, ACM: Another Chicago Magazine, and The Louisville Review, as well as in the anthology I to I: Life-Writing by Kentucky Feminists. Since 2007, her work has been honored with an Artist Enrichment Grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women, an Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council, and two nominations for the Pushcart Prize. She shares her home with ten rescued cats and her dog, Gordy, who is her partner on a pet-therapy team visiting hospitals, nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, and daycare centers.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Geraldine Ahearn TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Nancy Jensen takes the reader on an epic journey through eighty years, an emotional roller-coaster ride of happiness, and tragedy. The lives of two sisters are lived far apart, but the bonds of blood are tied in a knot, and never broken. What secrets tear apart Bertie and Mabel? What choices were made that divided their lives, and how did they survive through trauma and heartbreak? I highly recommend this extraordinary, compelling novel to all fiction lovers, who enjoy American literature, blended with history and romance. The story is beautifully written, deeply moving, and the characters come to life as the author illuminates secrets within one family portrait. The vibrant story with unforgettable characters becomes an intimate, captivating journey through The Depression, World War II, and Vietnam. The author describes how life was lived for women through the decades, the power of love, and betrayal. "THE SISTERS" is touching and is filled with joy, sorrow, and triumph!
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Melodie VINE VOICE on November 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This story starts in the 1920s with a story of 2 sisters, Bertie and Mabel. After their father dies, their mother remarries and the secrets begin. What happens to Bertie and Mabel will impact the following 3 generations of women.
This book hooks you from the beginning, but does start to lag half way through. As each chapter is about a different character, and does skip around the different generations, I am glad they included a family tree in the beginning.
I did not see the ending coming, as the mystery around a suicide is solved (not a spoiler statement), but still I wanted it to end differently.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Jolina Petersheim on November 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Sacrifice misinterpreted as selfishness becomes the catalyst that drives two beloved sisters, Mabel and Bertie Fischer, apart in Nancy Jensen's compelling, multi-generational debut novel, The Sisters, selected as the #1 Indie Next Pick for December 2012. Initially set in the rural town of Juniper, Kentucky -- where everyone's dirty laundry is aired regardless if it's hanging on the line or not -- Mabel's departure with Bertie's sweetheart on the day of Bertie's eighth grade graduation appears to both her sister and the town as an unforgivable act.

Propelled by the betrayal of the two people she had trusted and loved the most, Bertie's bitterness and refusal to read or answer Mabel's numerous letters explaining her actions causes the sisters' previously inseparable lives to remain adrift. Through the lean years of the Great Depression, the Second World War, Vietnam, to present day, Mabel and Bertie continue to grow and change without the other sister taking part in each other's transformation from girl to woman, wife to mother.

Nancy Jensen, in unflinching prose that captures both the poetic beauty and pain of frayed familial bonds, effortlessly braids together the threads of three generations of Fischer women -- of sisters -- whose lives follow the same pattern of heartbreak and misunderstanding as Mabel and Bertie. From Bertie's daughter Alma who yearns to be Shirley Temple in childhood so she can make everything right again and draw close to her distant mother, to Grace whose name exemplifies her ability -- unlike the other sisters -- to reach beyond her circumstances and find healing through unconditional love and art, The Sisters does not draw upon a cache of clichéd characters, but each sister is made unique in her many struggles and triumphs.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By J.Prather TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 31, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The Sisters is one of those multi generational family sagas that I usually love, however I had a very hard time loving this one. This is a story based on a miscommunication, which turns into a tragedy, which then has far reaching effects throughout the generations of women portrayed. Family secrets are a pretty common theme and I don't think the author offers up much new here. The miscommunication and the ensuing events that resulted from it felt contrived and the characters motivations following the initial event were unclear. Even at the end, when some of the blanks are filled in, I still did not understand how the characters could have allowed events to proceed as they did. This then colored my perceptions of the rest of the book.

I was excited to read this story, as it takes place in my part of the country; however I never felt that the author achieved a definite sense of place. The events described could have been taking place anywhere in the United States, and the book failed to capture any of the local feel of the Midwest. I found the author's narrative technique to be distracting, as she jumped from character to character and time period to time period in a rather haphazard manner. This led to a story that felt disjointed and frustrating as I often wanted more information concerning one character, only to jump to another, and then pick up with the character I was interested in four years later. I therefore never formed any kind of attachment to any of the characters and never felt any significant levels of understanding and empathy with them.

Finally, this book was just too bleak for me.
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