"Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather, and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know." - John Keats

"You're not allowed to say anything about books because they're books and books are, you know, God." - Nick Hornby

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Review #53: The Almost Archer Sisters, by Lisa Gabriele

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this book. It was...fine? 

From Amazon (cause I'm lazy): Georgia "Peachy" Archer always thought she was happy with her choices in life: quitting college, marrying young, raising two boys in the same small town where she grew up. But just as Peachy's life is beginning to settle into a careful routine, her sister's life begins to dangerously unravel. Beth Archer chose a different life: fancy apartment in Manhattan, fancy friends, making lots of money. She's been on her own since she was a teenager, and she's still on her own, outgrowing dress styles and boyfriends faster than Peachy can inherit them. But on a visit home one weekend, Beth upends everything Peachy thought she knew about being happy. 

There's more, of course. There always is. Warning: spoilers ahead:

Peachy catches her husband with Beth in the pantry one night. And by "with Beth", I mean that Beth is bent over the shelves, hanging on for dear life, with Peachy's husband firmly entrenched behind her, setting the flour sacks a-rattling. There is no doubt in anyone's mind what's going on. So from the beginning, Beth is painted as the bad guy. We're not supposed to like her, and Gabriele does a good job of making that happen. Through flashbacks, we learn how selfish Beth is, going off to meet her destiny in New York as soon as she's old enough to hit the road, allowing Peachy to be the one who discovers their mother's lifeless body in their tree fort when the girls were young. Beth is painted as a tramp, always dating a new guy, always flitting in and out of town, acting as though she's too good for their little one-horse farm. Peachy, on the other hand, is the martyred sister, the one who dropped out of college when she became pregnant with her first son, who stayed behind with their dad (who is a fun character and I wish we had seen more of him). Peachy's days are full of the mind-numbing things that a mother of two young boys must do, complicated by the fact that her eldest son has a form of epilepsy that requires strict record keeping and preparedness for almost any contingency.


Except things are revealed about Peachy that made her much less of a sympathetic character to me. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but there was something about Peachy that I couldn't stand, and the longer the book went on, the more I disliked her, which made me dislike the book, because I knew Beth was supposed to be the bad guy, but I wasn't feeling anything but sadness and regret for Beth. And I don't want to read a book where I feel sympathy for the woman who is having an affair.

The blurb on Amazon says that The Almost Archer Sisters is a refreshingly honest portrait of sisterhood, motherhood, and female mayhem. In the first place, "female mayhem"? What the hell is that? I'm not even addressing that. Secondly, I don't think this was an honest portrait - refreshing or not - of anything other than two very selfish women.

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