Source: Own book
Ever since the Bommarito sisters were little girls, their mother, River, has written them a letter on pink paper when she has something especially important to impart. And this time, the message is urgent and impossible to ignore River requires open-heart surgery, and Isabelle and her sisters are needed at home to run the family bakery and take care of their brother and ailing grandmother.
Isabelle has worked hard to leave Trillium River, Oregon, behind as she travels the globe taking award-winning photographs. It's not that Isabelle hates her family. On the contrary, she and her sisters Cecilia, an outspoken kindergarten teacher, and Janie, a bestselling author, share a deep, loving bond. And all of them adore their brother, Henry, whose disabilities haven't stopped him from helping out at the bakery and bringing good cheer to everyone in town.
But going home again has a way of forcing open the secrets and hurts that the Bommaritos would rather keep tightly closed Isabelle's fleeting and too-frequent relationships, Janie's obsessive compulsive disorder, and Cecilia's self-destructive streak and grief. Working together to look after Henry and save their flagging bakery, Isabelle and her sisters begin to find answers to questions they never knew existed, unexpected ways to salve the wounds of their childhoods, and the courage to grasp surprising new chances at happiness.
I have four Cathy Lamb novels sitting on my bookshelf since last year, when I read If You Could See What I See, my first book by her. I decided it was time to read another one and chose Henry's Sisters off the shelf. I noted the high rating by readers that I respect and then looked at some of the low ratings and worried a little! However as I began the novel and moved along in it, I could see that this book would be off putting for some and could see why they didn't stay with it. I have to admit reading in a little ways I was tempted to rest it awhile, but persevered and was very pleased that I did.
The story is told from Isabelle's point of view - first person is not my favourite, but after awhile it didn't really matter. The story was both heart breaking and heart warming. It is one of those books you read and as you sit with it at the end you know you have seen the world through different viewpoints and if you open your heart in compassion it is going to guide you into living life more fully.
Isabelle and Cecilia are twins - they often feel what is happening to the other. Their sister Janie is about a year younger. Henry is there brother and he has a mental disability, but his heart and capacity to love far outweighs that. For a good while through the novel I did not like River so much, but as more information was given, the heart of a mother was revealed in its capacity to put her children first and her capacity to make mistakes as well. I could not but help but feel compassion for her. Added to the family is River's mother who now has alzheimers and believes she is Amelia Earhart. Her antics often brought comic relief to the book.
As the girls meet back home to take care of their mother as she undergoes an operation, their relationship to her, each other and to Henry are revealed. The reader also gradually learns of the many terrible events that took place in their childhood, which explains the psychological and emotional challenges of these women. However what stands out is their love for each other and Henry and Grandma. There would be few families too that would have be as straight talking as they are. When they are confronted with a crises that brings them all to their knees it is either going to split them apart or they are going to learn that they are more than they thought.
This is a story about mothers and daughters, forgiveness, childhood horrors and above all else love. It wasn't easy reading but a very worthwhile read. It would make an excellent book club book, and their are discussion questions at the end of the book. (Don't read them until the end. I made the mistake of reading them first and came across a major event that of course I then knew as I started the book. However as it turned out it didn't matter too much).