Meredith's Reviews > Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters

Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford
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's review
Oct 27, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: contemporary-fiction, ya
Read from October 14 to 20, 2010

Originally posted on The Librarian Next Door:

In Natalie Standiford’s latest book, The Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters, family and sisterly intrigue takes over as Norrie, Jane and Sassy each try to make sense of their lives, their flaws and, ultimately, their triumphs.

In the Sullivan family, everyone knows that grandma – better known to the entire town as Almighty – makes the rules. And right now, Almighty declares the entire family will lose their inheritance if the person who has deeply offended her does not offer a full confession. Assuming the offending party must be one of them, Norrie, Jane and Sassy each pour their hearts out in letters to Almighty, confessing their deepest fears, emotions and transgressions, desperately hoping it will be enough to earn Almighty’s forgiveness and save their family’s livelihood.

A book about rich, privileged sisters could have been predictable and boring, but Standiford has created a fabulously crazy and vibrant family and centered her story on three lovable, relatable sisters. As different as they were from my own family, the Sullivans still managed to remind me of my own crazy, complicated family by the way they loved, encouraged and supported each other, even when they had no idea what was going on.

I really liked how realistic the sisters’ bond was, alternating between love and hate, admiration and annoyance. My heart went out to Norrie as I watched her struggle between appeasing her family and following her heart and I felt like cheering when she finally made her own choice. Sassy charmed me and made me laugh with her sweetness, her naivety and her earnest and sincere belief in her “specialness.” I saw a lot of myself in both Norrie and Sassy, but it was Jane – Jane with her doubts, fears, struggles, questions, and rebelliousness – who could have been me 12 years ago, if I had been much cooler, much more confident and a heck of a lot richer. Jane’s a girl after my own heart – where else but in fiction would I find someone who also aspired, like I do, to be Herbie the Dentist Elf from the claymation Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?

The rest of the Sullivan family takes on supporting roles, adding both ridiculousness and much-needed reason into the story. Almighty who steals the show (not surprising, since she probably planned it that way) as the over-the-top, fear-inspiring grand dame of the family. My only complaint is that, at times, Daddy-O and Ginger seemed cartoonish and silly. When Jane mentions Daddy-O getting so flustered he forgets the number for 9-1-1? Sure, it made me laugh, but it also stretched the realism factor a bit – the girls’ parents can’t really be that bad. Right?

The use of three first-person narrators – in the form of the girls’ letters to Almighty – is an interesting approach and one that could have gone horribly wrong, but I do think it works here. Each sister has her own voice and her own opportunity to tell her story, but more importantly, you get the sense these girls are being more honest in writing than they would be in real life. And it’s kind of fun to feel like you’re getting to look over someone’s shoulder, reading their heartfelt confessions. I think it adds just the tiniest bit of conspiratorial flare to the novel.

I think Natalie Standiford’s Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters succeeds wonderfully in developing the Sullivan sisters, their family and the world they live in, and – most especially – in creating three memorable, realistic sisters bound together by more than just DNA. You’ll definitely enjoy this book, even if you don’t have sisters and even if your grandmother doesn’t scare the bejeezus out of you.

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10/18/2010 page 134
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