Initial reaction: Um, holy crud. This was good. I'm trying to decide on a final rating between 4 and 4.5 stars, but as per usual, Chamberlain really immersed me into the plight of the characters and overarching story. I couldn't put this book down, and I"m really glad I had the chance to read it as a galley.
"The Silent Sister" was yet another book of Diane Chamberlain's that engaged me from beginning to end. By that I mean it kept me guessing for events for a good part of the narrative. One thing to keep in mind with this book is that not everything is as it seems, and if Riley's family is any indication, there are many secrets running under the surface - painful ones that refuse to be acknowledged until she starts chipping away at unanswered questions and places in the past. Yet the question becomes just how much can Riley chip away at before everything she knows caves in around her.
The story starts at a common point of grief. 25-year old Riley's father has died, her brother is a ball of unsettled anger towards a family that taught him to deny reality at a young age (and became even more substantial after his tours in the military). Riley is left to pick up the pieces and try to move on with her life as she tries to pack away her childhood home. Yet Riley uncovers findings in her father's home and settling his estate that lead her to questions about the sister she never knew - one who reportedly committed suicide in the midst of being on trial for murder. Yet some revelations suggest that there was more to Lisa's suicide than authorities thought to uncover.
I liked the focus of detail and characterization between the multiple POVs in this novel. Riley writes from first person while Lisa/Jade's accounts are in third. This is a good example as to how dual narration can work really well, since Riley starts at a point of grief and dealing with her father's estate has her in contact with multiple parties - each of whom holds a complex piece of her past - one which she isn't sure she could face the collective truth for. Riley/Jade has her own harrowing experiences to follow, and they work well for creating sympathy for a character whose actions seem problematic, if not cause for concern.
The two women are very different in personality, but intricately tied with one another and with their own respective flaws. I thought the first two thirds of the book were excellent, taking me along for the journey into the relationships and mystery surrounding their separation and how this all came to pass. I liked especially how Chamberlain managed to portray certain facts that were unknown by each of the characters and used that to heighten the tension for when certain revelations were handed down as the story progressed.
The last third of the book seemed a little rushed, but still had an emotional coming to terms for the characters and resolution to each of the promises made by the narrative since the beginning of the work. Like Chamberlain's other works, I enjoyed the focus on the character interactions, being drawn into their situations and emotions, and following the mystery that built with the respective tensions overall. Well worth the time spent.
Overall score: 4/5 stars.
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from St. Martin's Press.