Review: The Orphan Sister

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Orphan SisterThe Orphan Sister by Gwendolen Gross
Published by Gallery on July 5, 2011
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

Clementine Lord is not an orphan. She just feels like one sometimes. One of triplets, a quirk of nature left her the odd one out. Odette and Olivia are identical; Clementine is a singleton. Biologically speaking, she came from her own egg. Practically speaking, she never quite left it. Then Clementine’s father—a pediatric neurologist who is an expert on children’s brains, but clueless when it comes to his own daughters—disappears, and his choices, both past and present, force the family dynamics to change at last. As the three sisters struggle to make sense of it, their mother must emerge from the greenhouse and leave the flowers that have long been the focus of her warmth and nurturing. For Clementine, the next step means retracing the winding route that led her to this very moment: to understand her father’s betrayal, the tragedy of her first lost love, her family’s divisions, and her best friend Eli’s sudden romantic interest. Most of all, she may finally have found the voice with which to share the inside story of being the odd sister out. . . .

Going into this, I didn’t really have any expectations, but was hesitantly hopeful it might be interesting. I really didn’t know anything about it, except that the triplet thing. I am happy to report that The Orphan Sister was about so much more than that. This story grabbed me from page one and I devoured it whole, the funny, the sweet, the romantic, the depressing and even the scenes about babies (which for me is saying something).

Clem has such a real voice that you really feel like you’re getting to know her. She is intelligent and angry, broken and hopeful. There are so many facets to who she is and her problems feel like real life problems. Her hangups about being left out while also being afraid of the current balance falling apart are so illogical and lifelike. Of course, who doesn’t like a heroine who has a veritable menagerie of creatures: two dogs, a ferret and a snake (a five foot boa constrictor).

The triplet/twin themes are used to explore concepts of individuality and identity. Are the twins stronger because they have each other or is Clem stronger because she’s naturally more independent? The twin way of communicating was also completely fascinating. I wonder if people really do that, and suspect they might, which makes me wonder just what the human brain is capable of…

The other main aspects of the story deal with romantic relationships, that of Clem’s mother and father, as well as Clem’s love life. The former’s resolution I did not find entirely satisfying exactly, but it was unsatisfying in a true to life way; everything does not always have a really good ending. Clem’s love life involves a lot of grief, since her first, powerful love died while they were both still in college (where they met). This incapacitated her for a long while, but, even after recovering, it’s hard to get over someone you never had a chance to encounter real life with.

This book was so beautiful and moving and was just perfect for what I wanted to read right now, even though I didn’t realize that going in. Maybe I should be reading a bit more adult fiction; I’ve gotten so caught up in YA that I’d forgotten how great it can be.

2 responses to “Review: The Orphan Sister”

  1. Italia says:

    Gross tells Clementine’s story beautifully, keeping the reader totally engaged throughout the entire book. The pacing is brilliant, with just the right mix of dialogue, drama, and beautiful language to keep the plot moving, the characters developing, and the reader enthralled.

    • Christina says:

      Yay! A fellow lover of this book! I’ve seen some meh reviews or even seriously didn’t like it ones. I’m glad I’m not the only one, although that wouldn’t change my opinion. But Gwendolen Gross deserves props!

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