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3.56  ·  Rating Details ·  534 Ratings  ·  61 Reviews

"When my brother disappeared in 1984, I began to see myself in the third person as if my life were a story being told to someone else."

Abigail Schiller lives a seemingly normal childhood in a rural Catholic commuinity in Wisconsin. But that life is shattered when her younger brother, Sam, vanishes at the age of seventeen, fleeing their father's rigid rules of masculinity

Paperback, 240 pages
Published June 1st 1997 by Harper Perennial (first published 1996)
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Community Reviews

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Jun 06, 2015 Debbie rated it it was amazing
Another deep and engrossing read from A. Manette Ansay.

What a real privilege to again read another excellent work by author A. Manette Ansay. I was first introduced to her writing with Vinegar Hill, whose extremely, vivid and realistic characters were so shocking and emotionally wounded one can not help but turn page after page hoping for healing or restitution of some kind. I knew having read that book that I would continue to seek out and read more of her work. Sister is an absolute page tur
Amanda Birdwell
Nov 29, 2009 Amanda Birdwell rated it really liked it
I recommended this book to my mom, who has one of the most crystalline and ruthless literary-bullshit-detectors I have ever seen, although, to be fair, you see very few bullshit detectors as an English major. I really just can't think or say enough about Ansay - a book like this makes me happy I learned to read, the way a film like Precious makes me happy that movies exist, because I leave each more aware of the infinite complexity of other people's lives. I feel like being aware of this -- of a ...more
Manik Sukoco
Dec 24, 2015 Manik Sukoco rated it really liked it
I will admit to not getting into Sister as quickly as I did with Vinegar Hill or Midnight Champagne. But around the 5th chapter of so, something happened. The groove of the story began to make an impression on me, and suddenly I found myself savoring the pages that followed. And upon completion of this wonderful novel, A. Manette Ansay has finally and wholly proved herself to me to be an author of incomparable merit and style.
Sister tells the story of 30-year-old Abigail Schiller as she prepares
Aug 12, 2013 Lauren rated it liked it
Ansay is one of my favorite authors so when I saw this title, I bought it. Yes, some would say the plots of her novels are depressing, but to me, they are simply real. She writes about real life written in spectacular prose. Is her writing style for everyone? Absolutely not. It's a brutally honest style that I personally can relate to.

She's not an author that you can read back-to-back and expect to be in a jolly-good mood. You do have to take some time off in-between reads, but i am looking forw
Jan 07, 2012 Alex rated it really liked it
I am struggling to finish this disturbing, heart-breaking (please let it be) fiction. ....and I know it's not purely fiction, I know kids are growing up in the kind of households the author describes but, damn, story is very hard on the heart and mind.

~~~~~ Finished. Four stars because at least twice the writing was stunning but damn! that was a hard story to swallow.
Jun 22, 2009 Sue rated it did not like it
A number of years ago, I read a lovely book, called River Angel, by A. Manette Ansay. I had never heard of this author, had just chosen the book at random from the library. I picked up this one, Sister, because it was by the same author. However, I found it boring & essentially just skimmed the last half of the book. Disappointing.
Kristin Runyon
Dec 21, 2013 Kristin Runyon rated it really liked it
I liked the writing, which is good because I bought two or three books by the same author without having read anything by her. It didn't have a neat nor a happy ending, but it was realistic. Other reviews mention how depressing the story is, but the plot was clearly described on the back so I chose too read it when I was prepared for sad.
Feb 03, 2014 Kathy rated it really liked it
As usual, A. Manette Ansay did not disappoint. This was another great book, even though it was very sad. She has such an incredible gift of words. I've read some of her other books and have loved them all.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 24, 2007 Jenny (Reading Envy) rated it really liked it
Shelves: read06
A woman is influenced by the disappearance of her brother when she was younger. A sad story that asks you to reflect on how much your family influences who you are. Religion too.
Pamela Gottfried
Nov 30, 2014 Pamela Gottfried rated it really liked it
Disturbing, engrossing, riveting -- like all of her books, I simply devoured it!
Jan 20, 2012 Rosie rated it really liked it
very thought provoking........

May 01, 2016 Heather rated it it was ok
I’ve had this book on my TBR shelves forever. During the heyday of Oprah’s Book Club, I read and loved Ansay’s Vinegar Hill (about which I remember nothing), so I grabbed this one at a used book store years ago hoping to one day pick it up. I think this is the kind of novel I have to be in a particular mood for: quiet family drama where there is a big thing in the background, but generally speaking not much happens. The best thing I can say about this novel is that the writing was good and I hal ...more
Cait S
Sep 07, 2014 Cait S rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was an incredibly frustrating read for me. It started off with a lot of promise and for the first few chapters, it had me. But then...

Isn't it terrible when you can't put your finger on why something didn't work for you? I think for me it was because the summary of this book talked about a girl, all grown up, going back home to find her lost brother. And the book itself was...not about that at all. It meticulously goes over her childhood, hops, skips, and jumps around about a year of her ac
Pat Giese
Dec 28, 2016 Pat Giese rated it it was amazing
A musically gifted daughter is destined for college and a life beyond small-town Wisconsin until she becomes catatonic and is sent to live with her grandmother. There, she waits for a sign to indicate she is called to religious life like her cousin. No sign appears. She developed a significant fear of men based on the vulgar stories told to her by her father about men who "violate" women. The same father is abusive to Abbys' brother Sam, for the sake of not allwing him to become a "sissy". Sam d ...more
Apr 23, 2016 Stefanie rated it really liked it
A haunting, beautiful, raw story of a family in pain. We meet the Schillers in the present, years after Sam, the youngest child and Abby's only sibling, disappears without a trace. Each in their own way, they show that they are unable to reconcile the traumatic loss, despite understanding their own roles in Sam's feeling isolated and unknown. Dipping back into the future, Ansay paints a picture of Sam's severe emotional abuse at the hands of his father, and of Abby's and their mother's helplessn ...more
Sep 29, 2016 Cathy rated it liked it
Shelves: family-drama
You know you've been reading tragic tales when a novel about a dysfunctional family seems like a light read. This wasn't a light read, but it was a simpler read than recent books. I found myself quickly hooked by this story about a young woman, Abby, who struggles to recover from the disappearance of her 17-year old brother, Sam. As Abby returns to memories of her childhood, it doesn't take long for the reader to view her world from the frightened perspective of a little girl terrorized by an ab ...more
Jan 21, 2017 Molly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think if I had noticed it says "(Mysteries & Horror)" after the title, I would not have chosen this book. I'm glad I didn't see that.
Part of the appeal of this book was that its protagonist grew up Catholic and in the midwest at the same time I did. She and her family took their faith much more seriously than I ever did but it was nice to see how the reliance on Catholicism changed over the years. For some of the characters, it deepened and for some it fell off. I found that very realisti
Aug 14, 2012 Heidi rated it liked it
Read on the heels of several other depressing books, this was not particularly what I was interested in reading at the time, so it might deserve more than the 2.5 stars I wanted to give it. I found the writing a little too matter-of-fact about events without any sense that Abby was gaining any insight from her reflections. I felt that certainly as an adult I knew very little about her but did not particularly have a sense that I would like her or that she would be a good wife or mother. As a chi ...more
The story is set in a small rural community in Wisconsin. August 5th 1984 Abby's younger brother Sam disappears. Abby's mother works for a small advertising company and sends press releases of Sams disappearance to all other papers. Next came a series of break-ins. Suddenly the police arrive and are eager to find Sam but the police don't suggest that Sam had become a suspect. Abby's mother went through Sam's bedroom collecting rolling papers, loose joints and traces of white powder taking them t ...more
Apr 30, 2012 Martha rated it liked it
This is a solid 3.5 stars for me. I had a hard time getting into it but once I did, i liked it. I really liked the writing and felt it was honest and real. What is amazing to me is the pain some people can write about that feels almost "normal." This family was obviously disturbed in so many ways that it's no real surprise that the younger brother "ran away" repeatedly only to finally disappear when he was 17. The incredible thing is the sister did no run away. I have to admit, after the serious ...more
Oct 26, 2016 Bamboozlepig rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
Another DNF. Again, the prose was well done, but I struggled to connect to the main character. Her father was physically and emotionally abusive towards her, her brother and her mother, and that abuse should've played a big part in the storyline/character development, but instead it was hardly even mentioned or explored. Like with "Vinegar Hill", having a dream-like style of writing translates into a nightmare to read.
May 13, 2008 Meghan rated it liked it
Ansay's writing, typically set in Wisconsin, always has a deep sense of loss associated to it. "Sister" is no different. Set in the farmlands of Wisconsin, a brother and sister grow up with a father whose rules and ridgeness scar them both - deeper than their mother chooses to recognize.

My favorite lines were found at the end: The ability to believe. The ability to see beyond the place where you are. Do you understand how important that is?" I'm learning...
Jan 28, 2009 Ellen rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This book by the author of Midnight Champagne tells the story of a woman still coming to terms with her childhood and the disappearance of her younger brother when he was 17. Pregnant with her first child, Abby explores her past, discovering truths about her family that she had hidden from herself. The story is told in flashbacks, bouncing back and forth between different stages of her childhood and the present. This was a poignant tale that drew me in.
Nancy Jurss
Apr 20, 2015 Nancy Jurss rated it liked it
Abby, the narrator of the story is currently living in New York State and is pregnant with her first child. Jumping back and forth between the past and present, she reminisces about her childhood. In particular, about her long-missing brother and growing up with their dysfunctional parents. The story of her past is alternately entertaining and disturbing, but the current state of all the characters isn't quite as believable or interesting.
Jul 10, 2014 Erica rated it it was ok
What a horrible little book. The plot is jumpy and structureless and the main character is weak and unlikable.

This novel is centered around the disappearance of the main character's younger brother when the siblings were teenagers. I usually like crime and mystery novels but I was unable to connect to the characters or the plot. Skip this one!
May 07, 2008 Liz rated it liked it
I've wanted to read this for a couple years now (LOVED "Vinegar Hill"), but my attention span is shot right now so I largely skimmed to the good parts. Even doing that, I enjoyed the story (love those dysfunctional families; make me feel so much better about the one I grew up in). Maybe I'll revisit when I'm more focused.
Jul 01, 2011 Zella rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A pretty quick read, but a very good portrait of a mid-western Catholic family and how growing up with strictly enforced stereotypes and a strongly religious background affect a brother and sister. The brother disappears as a teenager, and the sister is left to deal with the guilt of wondering what happened to him and how their parents influenced each of them in different ways.
Dec 13, 2008 Rachel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
A touching book, and disturbing- in a good way- because there is no concrete resolution. Very lifelike.

More important, the author's characterization is just superb. I loved getting into her protagonist's head, and the problems she faced (and how she faced them) seemed heartwrenching, yet realistic, too, and not over the top. Kudos.
Sep 11, 2008 Alice added it
I reread this book after reading Ansay's memoir, to compare her life to her fiction. Her writing is as powerful as I remembered, and, although the world she describes is a bit bleak, somehow the beauty and clarity of the writing helps us to move beyond the dark shadows.
Dec 08, 2010 Sbwilliamsrogers rated it it was ok
I really was not all that impressed with this book. It was slow, jumpy, and depressing. Although, the worst part was the weak main character. I never quite connected to her. I thought she was fairly two-dimensional. It made it difficult to truly throw myself into the story.
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A. Manette Ansay grew up in Wisconsin among 67 cousins and over 200 second cousins. She is the author of six novels, including Good Things I Wish You (July, 2009), Vinegar Hill, an Oprah Book Club Selection, and Midnight Champagne, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, as well as a short story collection, Read This and Tell Me What It Says, and a memoir, Limbo. Her awards include ...more
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“I have this strange feeling none of this is really happening. Like I'm standing far away from myself. Like nothing is real. Have you ever had a feeling like that?” 2 likes
“..and it occurs to me how fragile our lives are, how at any moment the sky can open and drown us, the earth can open and swallow us. I think of all the intricate ways our bodies can betray us, the accidents and the atrocities, the missteps and the misunderstandings.” 0 likes
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