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Interesting book that explores family dynamics and relationships

The Sunshine Sisters - Jane Green

Three sisters are summoned home by their mother with no explanation. She wants to give them some news. All three have been estranged, not only from their mother, but from each other. They have rarely returned home to Westport, CT, after they left, and they do not often communicate with each other. They wonder why their mother has reached out to them and wonder if it is just another one of her ploys to get attention.

Ronni Sunshine, their mother, was a famous actress. Nell, Meredith and Lizzy have all lived in her shadow in one way or another, throughout their lives. Ronni had little time for them as they grew up, neglecting them and her marriage, devoting herself to her work in order to further her career.

Each sister has a different personality which developed in response to the way in which their mother treated them and the way they reacted to her often cruel tirades and selfish needs. Lizzie is forceful and confident and would laugh, never letting her mother’s moods bother her. Nell would withdraw and show no emotion, when the moods were particularly unpleasant. Meredith would feel shame and blame herself when her mother harangued her. She lacked self confidence. She took the brunt of her mother’s rage.

How each daughter reacts to the call to return home to see their mother and how they interact with each other is the substance of the novel. It explores the relationship between parent and child, sibling and sibling and husband and wife. Relationships between partners of same and opposite sex, married and unmarried are unmasked and described in detail. How will they all get along when they suddenly find themselves thrown together in their family home, confronting the anger and jealousy they each harbored toward each other and their mother?

There are some humorous as well as some more serious touching moments as the story rolls out. The author presented several important issues and they were developed well. In addition, like most books today, the author seemed eager to subtly present her views on controversial issues through the types of characters she developed, the problems they faced, the careers they pursued, and the lifestyles they chose. At times, it felt a little contrived as it moved back and forth in time, revealing the family’s history and problems by exposing the memories of each character. However, it did keep me interested and was an enjoyable read. It is definitely more of the type of a book I would describe as chick lit or a companion to take with you on vacation. I especially enjoyed reading about some of the communities in the story which were suburban or bucolic and with which I am familiar.