Date Published: August 7, 2012
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 2.0 out of 5
Book Summary: Nine-year-old Carrie Parker and her mother, Libby, are making a fresh start in the small town of Hartsville, North Carolina, ready to put their turbulent past behind them. Violence has shattered their family and left Libby nearly unable to cope. And while Carrie once took comfort in her beloved sister, Emma, her mother has now forbidden even the mention of her name.
When Carrie meets Ruth, Honor, and Cricket Chaplin, these three generations of warmhearted women seem to have the loving home Carrie has always dreamed of. But as Carrie and Cricket become fast friends, neither can escape the pull of their families’ secrets—and uncovering the truth will transform the Chaplins and the Parkers forever.
My Thoughts: Caroline Parker (Carrie) first appeared as a narrator in Elizabeth Flock’s dark, troubling novel, Me & Emma (my review). Flock continues the story of Carrie and her family in What Happened to My Sister. Although it’s been seven years since Me & Emma graced bookstore shelves, little time has passed for Carrie. This book opens with Carrie and her mother, Libby, driving away from Murchison, the small North Carolina town where they lived, after a horrific incident altered their lives. Carrie believes they’re on their way to her Grandma’s house, possibly in Asheville, but they only make it as far as the rundown Loveless Motel in Hartsville.
I was looking forward to this book, especially because Carrie and her mother are forging a new life together. I hoped things would eventually work out for them, though I expected it would be difficult for a little while at least. Remembering Flock’s exploration of the psychological manifestations of Carrie’s struggles and how she coped with life, I hoped for a similar treatment of Libby considering how rough life had been on her. I hoped, at least, to know Libby better and understand her behavior a bit more. Unfortunately, What Happened to My Sister is as different from Me & Emma as seemingly possible. Where her first book was layered, smart and sad but inspiring with some shocking twists, this book is predictable, one-dimensional and dull. It becomes difficult to believe this Carrie is the same person from Me & Emma. She meets with so many favorable circumstances and amazing coincidences, we’re forced to suspend belief to the nth degree and enter a land of fairytales. Towards the end, a couple of surprises are revealed but for readers who didn’t figure them out on their own, they come too late to prove exciting.
I can’t help but wonder what inspired the Flock to wait seven years for a sequel that is so polar opposite of the original. There are too many ridiculously fortuitous situations that make everything else about the book predictable. Had the first book not been so good, this may have held up on its own as better-than-average chick-lit, but as it is, when compared to its predecessor (as all sequels are, unfairly or not), I found What Happened to My Sister to be just a plain disappointment.
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Thank you to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review What Happened to My Sister and to Ballantine Books for an ARC copy of the book.