Only Sisters

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Inspiration: One serious and one intriguing. The loss of my mother-in-law and especially my sister-in-law, who was a sister to me, was devastating. What does a writer do with that grief? Use it for fuel. Think about the contradictions–conflict and bonds–of sisters, all the kinds of sisters. This is a love letter to my husband’s family, and a story that turns on an experience I had in the early internet of someone posing as a different person altogether. It asks: who are we really?

“There’s more than one mystery hidden in this entertaining and cleverly told story, but the heart of Only Sisters lies in…the idea of family. This irresistible page-turner is going to stay with me for a long time.” – Katherine Ashenberg, author of Her Turn

Sisters are complicated. Joan has always done the right thing, both as a palliative care doctor and as a caregiver for her widowed mother. Her sister, Vivien is a different story. She left home as soon as she was able–running from their insecure childhood to work as a nurse in the world’s troubling zones. Still, when Vivien learns she is headed to a remote village in Africa where Ebola is spreading, she reaches out to Joan. If she dies, she wants Joan to pose as her on social media, so their dying mother won’t have to grieve. It’s a lie, but it’s the good kind.

I agreed to become my sister during a polar vortex. It was her fifty-ninth birthday, and we were ten thousand kilometres apart. I was sitting on my bed, and though the city was encased in ice, I had the window open. With the superpower of a menopausal woman, I could melt mountains of snow.

Only Sisters

As Joan mourns Vivien, she begins to impersonate her online, as promised. It’s difficult at first, but to her surprise, it becomes liberating, even addictive. Then Joan receives a message on her sister’s Facebook from a man claiming to be the son teenaged Vivien gave up for adoption, and the line between right and wrong, adventure and tragedy, really begins to blur.