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Two Sisters: A Novel Paperback – March 4, 2014

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Editorial Reviews Review

Author One-on-One: Adriana Trigiani and Mary Hogan

Adriana TrigianiMary Hogan

Adriana Trigiani is beloved by millions of readers around the world for her hilarious and heartwarming novels.

Adriana Trigiani: Throughout Two Sisters, Muriel seems accepting of her position as least favorite child behind her brother and especially her sister. Where did Muriel’s capacity to forgive both her mother and sister come from?

Mary Hogan: Muriel just wants to be loved. Like all kids—and everyone else! She especially longs to be loved by her mom, of course. And it breaks my heart to know that young Muriel feels as though Lidia’s coolness towards her is her fault. By the time she’s grown, however, I view Muriel’s outlook more as survival than forgiveness. She understands that she can’t let her mother muck up her emotions any longer. It’s too exhausting! She begins to accept herself.

For me, the ugly confrontation toward the end of the book between Muriel and her mother is the beautiful moment in which Muriel finally becomes an adult.

AT: You began your career writing young adult fiction. How did you make the transition from writing for teens to writing for adults?

MH: What I loved most about writing for teens was the abundance of firsts: first love, first kiss, first heartbreak. The pages practically reeked of hormonal drama. Writing for adults feels more grounded, somehow. The emotions are more embedded. There’s more subtlety. Plus, you get to see how those early firsts effect later life.

For me, the secret to capturing both teen and adult voices is to not stray too far from who I really am: a Muriel. An adult who vividly remembers her first kiss. A sister who lost her sister. A child who grew up in a family full of secrets. If I can manage to stay true to myself—while I become other people in print—I believe I’ll be able to connect to other Muriels, Pias and, yes, even Lidias out there.

AT: I know you have been through some personal family tragedies similar to those the Sullivant sisters experience. How did your own family history influence Two Sisters?

MH: Ah, yes...sigh. The “Pia” in my life was my sister, Diane. I began writing Two Sisters two weeks after she passed away from breast cancer. I was awash in sadness, hurt, confusion. Diane made a decision to die quietly, without saying goodbye to anyone. Her death was a shock; it felt like a stab wound in my heart. How could she leave me like that? Hadn’t she loved me?

I know it sounds crazy that a family member could hide something as big as the final stages of terminal cancer, but Diane did. Her husband and daughter knew, because they lived with her. But the rest of us were in the dark. I now know that denial is a cataract—it blinds you to the truth that’s in front of your face. Though my sister lived in California and I live in New York, I saw her a few months before she died and never noticed how sick she looked. I feel terribly guilty about that.

After Diane’s funeral, with tears sheeting down my face, I wrote down every detail I could remember about her illness, things she’d told me, signs I’d seen but denied, tidbits her husband had mentioned over the years. I knew she had cancer, but I had always believed her when she said she was, “Fine.” That word. Fine. It haunts me. Why didn’t I dig further?

Writing down everything I could remember and reconstruct about the final days of my sister’s life was my way of trying to understand her, and trying to forgive myself. Those cathartic days at the computer would later become Chapter Twenty-Two of Two Sisters

From Booklist

YA novelist Hogan ventures into adult fiction with this novel about a family weighed down by festering secrets and resentments. Twenty-three-year-old Muriel Sullivant is a Broadway casting assistant in Manhattan, but she’s still riddled by the same insecurities that plagued her as a child: namely, that her mother favored her older sister, Pia, over her and she’ll never be the kind of sister that glamorous, elegant Pia wanted. Her life in her small city apartment couldn’t be more different than Pia’s existence in Connecticut with her adoring husband and daughter. When Pia calls Muriel out of the blue and wants to visit her, Muriel dreads it, expecting only judgment and disappointment. But when Pia arrives, her behavior is decidedly out of character, and Muriel finally learns why: Pia has been stricken with metastatic breast cancer. Pia implores Muriel to keep her diagnosis from their mother, and Muriel reluctantly consents, not anticipating the fallout that will lead to the revelation of even more family secrets. Book clubs will find much to discuss in this fraught, fascinating family drama. --Kristine Huntley

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (March 4, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062279939
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062279934
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (197 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,828 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Welcome both teen and adult readers.

A bit about me: I'm proud to be the Nappa Award-winning author of seven Young Adult novels. My first mainstream book, TWO SISTERS (William Morrow Publisher) was published in March. It tells the emotional story of one family, two sisters and a lifetime of secrets. One of the sisters, Pia, was inspired by my own sister, the late Diane Barbera Cote.

I've also written for several national magazines. Personal stories, mostly. Look for my true story, "Lasting Lessons" in the March 2014 issue of Woman's Day. You'll also find a review of TWO SISTERS in the March issue of Fitness Magazine. Previously, my articles have appeared in magazines from Family Circle to Seventeen, on subjects ranging from my addiction to talk radio (latest obsession: "Taking Stock with Pimm Fox") to life as a blonde. Born brunette, I bleached my hair PLATINUM blonde and chronicled daily life in the light-haired lane. Sheesh, what a difference. Let me say this: As soon as I was able, I dyed it back. Some people just have a brunette personality...

On a personal note, I live in New York City with my husband, actor Robert Hogan, and our freckly rescue dog, Lucy. Photos on or FB.


Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By L.W. Samuelson VINE VOICE on September 30, 2013
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I sliced through this book like warm butter. With easy to read writing and just enough tension to move the reader forward, Hogan has written an account of sibling rivalry and a family that has strayed from the important things in life. The Sullivant family consists of a self-centered mother, an indifferent father, a daughter favored by the mother, a son favored by the father, and Muriel.
Poor, imperfect Muriel feels left out in the great divide between the father/son and the mother/daughter. Muriel, the fifth leg of the group, tries to cope in a dysfunctional family that seemingly ignores her. When Pia, the oldest daughter, is diagnosed with breast cancer, the family secrets start to unravel and upset the static interrelationships.
While this book is billed as literature, it reads more as a romance novel. Although I enjoyed Two Sisters, it seemed implausible that a life time of resentments, deceits, and betrayals could be resolved so neatly and I rolled my eyes at some of the metaphors Hogan used. With that being said, in the end Muriel discovers herself in a feel good story that is sure to please most people.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Joanna Patton on March 13, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
A sort of coming-of-adult-age journey for Muriel, the misfit of the family where the mother adored her older, beautiful sister
and the father got the son he wanted. Muriel was an "oops! we're pregnant" baby, an outsider in her own family. But,
since blood is thicker than water, Muriel doesn't simply separate from her family -- she's so there for them, even if reluctantly. I liked her rediscovering her brother in all this mess - you have the feeling they will remain connected and close. The sister proves
to be incredibly stoic facing death. The mother is sort of an awful person that try as I might, I couldn't get too compassionate about.
Finely drawn characters, all of them. A great read!
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Format: Paperback
Sunday is Muriel Sullivant's favorite day. It is a day off from her work as a casting assistant (a job that is decidedly unglamorous but has the bonus of a best friend/boss named Joanie). She has a Guy Fieri "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" marathon awaiting her pleasure on television. She also has a gigantic bucket of her favorite popcorn to fortify herself while she watches. As she settles into the gloriousness of this day-off Nirvana, her phone rings. Believing it must be Joanie wanting to compare notes on the "Triple D" shows, she answers and is devastated to hear her older sister, Pia, informing her that she will be by to visit after mass. Ominously, Pia adds, "We have to talk." Muriel's heart sinks. So much for a perfect, peaceful Sunday.

Muriel dashes off to buy food her sister might approve of while bracing herself for Pia's usual onslaught of criticism about Muriel's figure, home, wardrobe, singleness, lack of church attendance, and/or diet. Of course, she has no clue as to what kind of snacks Pia might actually deign to eat. Already and as usual, Muriel feels like a Yeti in imagined comparison to slender, leggy, blonde Pia. Their mother, Lidia, has made no secret of the fact that she thinks Pia is marvelous, while Muriel, an unwanted third child, has always been a huge disappointment.

When Pia arrives at Muriel's apartment, pale and breathless from the four-story climb, she seems as usual at first. Then she begins to act in an untypical manner, tying her own beautiful silk scarf around Muriel's neck. It isn't surprising that she refuses Muriel's offerings of food, instead insisting she will take her sister to a "fabulous" restaurant for lunch. Muriel is not thrilled at the idea of dressing up in the white dress Pia picks out for her.
Read more ›
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By jo bowen on April 10, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book had the potential to be very good. Good plot line, good characters, etc. However, the author put too much emphasis on unimportant details, allowing the story to drag too often. I found myself fast forwarding through the pages, skipping the boring, nonessential parts.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By VINE VOICE on January 9, 2014
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The week before I read this, I read a book called "The Rathbones" by Janice Clark. That book and Mary Hogan's "Two Sisters" have little in common except that both left me feeling maddeningly conflicted about certain characters and that while I can recognize that the writing and story telling is solid, I'm not sure if I'd ever want to read it again.

That all said, I couldn't say this story of Muriel, a young woman who has lived in the shadow of a dysfunctional family, can be seen as merely "okay" which is why I had to go with the 4-star rating rather than a 3-star.

Muriel lives in fourth floor walk up studio in NYC. She appears to have a job she likes with a boss she gets along with. Her problem isn't with the world but with the burden of her family.

Her older sister, Pia, was the hands-down favorite of her mother, Lidia. Her brother, Logan, was her father's favorite as much as her disengaged father could have one. It is Pia who shares a secret with Muriel which prompts Muriel on a path to finally acknowledge and confront the dysfunction of her childhood and family.

First off, I hated her mother. I'm supposed to hate the selfish Lidia because she's at the center of it all. Pia is a reflection of sorts but I can cut Pia some slack because the mother is so messed up. I did take some time warming up to Muriel and I'm not sure if I did fully 'get' Muriel or if at the end, I felt that Muriel was really 'okay' or if it was just a band aid until another day.

That's the warning I'd give on this book is that it isn't really a feel good book. The denouement at the end is too short for it to be 'feel good' but it does linger long after the last page is turned which is sometimes the bigger recommendation. Some books end in a satisfying way and then it is forgotten soon after while others end in a murky not-quite-satisfying way yet you'll think about it long after.
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