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The Sisters

3.31  ·  Rating details ·  3,461 Ratings  ·  642 Reviews
Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, a dazzling debut novel about the family bonds that remain even when they seem irretrievably torn apart

Growing up in hardscrabble Kentucky in the 1920s, with their mother dead and their stepfather an ever-present threat, Bertie Fischer and her older sister Mabel have no one but each other—with perhaps a sweetheart for Bertie waiting in t
Hardcover, 324 pages
Published November 8th 2011 by St. Martin's Press (first published November 1st 2011)
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Sep 16, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2011
2.5 stars

It is hard for me to assign a numerical rating to this book because while I believe that it is very well written, with authentic characters and an interesting story, it was simply too bleak for me to enjoy it. The women in this story endure one tragedy after another, and are uniformly tortured souls. I can read and appreciate a sad book with the best of them, but this one had not one uplifting moment, with the exception of one section toward the end.

While reading this one, I couldn’t he
Aug 08, 2017 rated it liked it
This was a good but sad story.
May 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
I will try not to form too harsh an opinion before I finish it, but I’m about halfway through and beginning to sense a pattern that I don’t want any more of. It seems this is a multi-generational story about the terrible things that happen to two sisters in the 1920s, how that affects their daughters in the 1940s and onwards and onwards, a series of miserably depressing vignettes that seem to have no end to them. I think I get the point, how the behavior and bad decisions of one generation has c ...more
"Sisters" begins with a tragic misunderstanding between two sisters living in 1920's Kentucky. In fact misunderstandings come one after the other in this generational saga, through the next few generations of mothers and sisters tragedies pile up one upon the other due to secrets. So much deliberate lying make the story seem unbelievable. Worst of all there never seems to be a point to the mishaps. The three sets of sisters trail through seven decades with the action jumping back and forth in ti ...more
Jan 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
There were many things about this book that I absolutely loved. Centered on the relationship and subsequent generations of two sisters, it tells an often sad story of how their lives played out because of a singular event that didn't go as planned. I loved how each chapter was the story of a different character in a different time. The story moved quickly (I finished the book in a little less than two days) and it was intensely readable. With all the generations and time passing, I especially ap ...more
McGuffy Morris
Mar 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing

This novel begins in 1920s Kentucky. It spans the lives of two very different sisters, who take very different paths through life. Each sister has a pair of daughters. As their story unfolds, it also tells the stories of their daughters.

Each woman in this multi-generational novel has their own set of circumstances, based both upon their environment and the choices they make. They each have definite strengths and weaknesses. Some of the women are strong in moral and character, yet some are strong
Actual rating 3.5 stars

I picked this up from the library on audio book without knowing anything about it. As I do many books. And with that risk doesn't always come reward.

This book certainly wasn't bad. Jensen is very clearly a good author. But at times the detail was excessive for my taste and I generally hate not being given the answer to big questions. I don't enjoy "let the reader decide" 99% of the time.

That said, I do like generational stories and this certainly was one. Every chapter
Sep 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: xaudiobook
This book is amazing, well written, powerful themes, grim misunderstandings and heartbreaking outcomes that revolve around a choice made long ago: to truly forgive or not to forgive. It starts with two Sisters who become Mothers, they have Daughters, their Daughters are Sisters who become Mothers of Daughters. The decision to forgive or not has impacted them all as they became Daughters, Sisters and Mothers. My favorite line in the book is "Whatever we carry inside us shapes everyone we touch." ...more
Mary Anne
Dec 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
This story of two sisters who grew up in a poor rural town of Kentucky began in 1928 and ended in 2007. Mabel & Bertie were close after their mother died in childbirth. Mabel makes some decisions to protect Bertie from suffering the same abuse from their stepfather that she has endured. Unfortunately, the decisions Mable makes snowball and lead to confusion and estrangement. Some stubborness on Bertie's part feeds into the estrangement.The story then follows Mabel & Bertie's separate liv ...more
Jan 27, 2012 rated it liked it
In many ways, this was an exceptional book, especially in the small view. The details about the various characters were keen and clear and often poignant and real.

In other ways, this was like a long slog, a narrative of all the terrible things that can happen to women--mostly oppressive male relationships, some abusive, some just terrible. The only two happy main characters are the ones who are/become eventually single, Mabel and Grace. The rest of this angry, sad, upset batch of unhappy women n
Oct 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaway-books
Nancy Jensen takes the reader on an epic journey through eighty years, an emotional roller-coaster ride of happiness, and tragedy. The lives of two sisters are lived far apart, but the bonds of blood are tied in a knot, and never broken. What secrets tear apart Bertie and Mabel? What choices were made that divided their lives, and how did they survive through trauma and heartbreak? I highly recommend this extraordinary, compelling novel to all fiction lovers, who enjoy American literature, blend ...more
Melissa Crytzer Fry
Feb 12, 2012 rated it really liked it

“Whatever we carry inside us shapes everyone we touch.” What a poignant line in this lovely debut by Nancy Jensen. And what a truth about human relationships across time … It is a truth woven throughout this novel that colors the actions, decisions, and consequences of five generations of the Fischer family.

In this moving multi-generational family saga, readers are introduced to three sets of sisters: Mabel and Bertie born in the early 1900s; Bertie’s daughters, Alma and Rainey, born during the
Nov 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those of us who love a family saga...
Quick summary...

This is the story of two sisters, Mabel and Bertie. They live sort of at the turn of the century with their mother and stepfather on a farm. They are not wealthy. They all work hard. Mabel...the older harder than anyone to protect her little sister, Bertie. Mabel has given up school and has given up her purity to keep their stepfather from going near Bertie.

In those days no one talked about this issue and there seemed to be nowhere for Mabel to turn other than to d
Katie Hanrahan
Apr 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
Halfway through, I found myself counting the remaining pages & debating whether or not to finish.

Ms. Jensen has won awards for her short stories, and the chapters of this novel have the feel of a short story. Each chapter is linked, to an extent, but the book doesn't have the feel of a novel.

Sadly, most of the male characters are cartoons of bad boys, while each of the females is grappling with her personal piece of the dysfunction pie, giving the book a soap-opera quality. Everyone is miser
Dec 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Probably 3.5 stars. While I did like the book, and the premise of the story, there were times I was a bit lost on what was going on and the who/what/where.

Follows the lives of two sisters, Bertie & Mabel, from 1920's Kentucky through the 1990s. Neither was an exceptionally likeable character, but that could be perhaps due to the circumstances.

I kept waiting for something to happen (won't say what - it's a spoiler) .... and that just left me disappointed.

My fav character was probably Grace!
Jul 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Well, I'm still reading this one, and I've not put it down for nearly a day and a half, so clearly Jensen is doing something right. I heard her speak at the Kentucky Women's Book Festival last year and thought that while her novel sounded interesting (I love historical fiction), it might be a bit drivelly and sentimental. I was (fortunately) very wrong, although there are a couple of things about it that do bother me a bit.

So. The good. Jensen's prose is really quite good, although there are a c
Nov 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
My word....beautifully written. Reminded me slightly of the movie How to make an American quilt. Although I found Mable + Daisy's story line of how mother and daughter came to be a stretch... I went with it. It is books like these that make me question my own lineage of women. Not that I have had horrific story lines in my family (to my knowledge) but as women we try our damnedest to do the best for our sisters, our daughters and all of the other women in the family all while hiding the pain of ...more
Nov 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It was a good read, I like how it just moved along, not rehashing the same things over.
While I did enjoy this book, I have rated it as a 3 and not a 4 because I was not fond of the gaps in the storyline.
The story starts with two sisters, very close, but due to an understanding become separated. The story goes through several generations with their children, children's children etc.
The story itself was fantastic, the authors writing great but this was too short a book to really pay tribute to their lives. There were huge gaps and while some of the events missed were touched on, I f
Gloria Bernal
Nov 01, 2011 rated it liked it
First half is good and so is the ending, but 2/3 of the way through there were just too many characters and small glimpses of situations that could've been left out. The family tree at the beginning is helpful but I would've preferred a shorter tree, and more character development of the first few characters (i.e; Wallace).

This spans 80 years and when the original characters start dying off with no resolution to their part in the plot-line, I started losing interest. The two sisters involved we
J.S. Bailey
Dec 12, 2012 rated it liked it
I liked the characters in this book, but I think the story would have benefited from there being some kind of resolution to the initial conflict. We the readers know all the answers and it hardly seems fair that the characters themselves (except for one) never got to find out why the two sisters were estranged from one another. Plus, the ending kind of bummed me out.
May 06, 2017 rated it liked it
I thought I would like this more than I did. I was expecting to see a taste of the crazy close bond I have with my sisters reflected in these characters, but none of the relationships were ones I related to very well. I had trouble rooting for some of the characters, which makes me feel a bit guilty. It probably would have helped if I'd read it straight through rather than pausing for long periods of time before picking it back up again. The book already has a timeline that jumps around a bit. O ...more
Donna Doyle
Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
This novel covers a lot of ground, telling the story of the Fischer sisters, Mabel and Bertie, beginning in 1927, and ending in 2007. It is a tragic story, full of violence, sacrifice, good intentions and misunderstandings. Mabel does her best to protect her younger sister Bertie from their abusive stepfather after their mother dies in childbirth. Things don't go as planned, and Mabel and Bertie end up estranged.

What follows are their individual stories: marriages, pregnancies, raising children,
Jun 24, 2015 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars (it would have been more, but it was too sad and because of that I just couldn't give it three)

I liked the writing and every once in a while, I liked some of the characters (I think I liked Grace the most). I did NOT like the story.
My biggest issue with this book is the amount of tragedy that this family had to deal with. I know life is unfair and at times horrible, but I felt like the author had a checklist of everything bad that could happen and was ticking things off.
It seemed lik
Nov 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Family secrets are common in novels yet Nancy Jensen has created a fresh and innovative look at the long term consequences of these secrets in her novel The Sisters. Opening in 1927 on a pivotal day for sisters, Mabel and Bertie a life altering misunderstanding is presented to readers in two chapters, from the perspective of each sister. Subsequent chapters are told from the point of view of the sisters as well as the female children and grandchildren of the two women over the course of the foll ...more
Regina Spiker
A misunderstanding in one generation can affect the future of generations to come. Sadly, two young sisters, Mabel and Bertie, who loved and looked out for the other allow a misunderstanding to come between them. If only Bertie knew the sacrifice that Mable had made to keep Bertie safe from their step-father....the heartbreaking story continues through their daughters, the Great Depression, World War ll and Vietnam and beyond.

As Bertie said, "...I mean it's when something happens - like a war, b
It was hard to rate this book; it's well-written and parts of it are very interesting, but overall hardly any of the myriad of women in it were especially likeable. I'm not so naive or starry-eyed that I have to like the characters to like the book; however I found the relentless bitterness and grudge-holding that seemed to be the main theme to be a bit tedious. People do get over things, after all. There were numerous minor plot threads that ended up going nowhere. I understand the plot device ...more
Oct 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
The Sisters
By Nancy Jensen
Published by St. Martin’s Press

A masterfully written debut novel, The Sisters is a sweeping chronicle of one family’s broken path through the last century. Complex, raw and poignant, the saga begins with two sisters. Bertie is young, naïve, and envious of her older sister Mabel. Mabel is beautiful, tortured, and strong, carrying secrets and scheming behind Bertie’s back… for all the right reasons.

When the girls are torn apart by a shocking event that rocks their small
Nov 12, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011-reads
Although I have about 100 pages to finish in this novel I feel confident in writing this review of The Sisters by Nancy Jensen. Honestly, this book would probably be much better if I could keep the different characters straight.

Jensen has written a tale of two sisters who are kept apart by a mis-understanding during their late childhood. They go on with their separate lives to become mothers, wives, and, later, grandmothers. Each woman has her own story to tell and I can imagine that Jensen want
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Play Book Tag: The Sisters by Nancy Jensen - 3.5 stars 3 15 Apr 04, 2016 02:53PM  
Mabel & Wallace 2 16 Mar 13, 2013 07:45PM  
Thoughts 1 9 Feb 19, 2013 11:27AM  
L'Awesome Book Club: The Sisters - Mar 2012 book 3 9 Mar 10, 2012 11:34AM  
Lexington Reads: "The Sisters" by Nancy Jensen 4 26 Feb 28, 2012 02:24PM  
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NANCY JENSEN’s work has appeared in numerous literary journals, and her first book, Window, a collection of short stories and essays, was published by Fleur-de-Lis Press in 2009. She has been awarded an Artist Enrichment Grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women and an Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council. Nancy shares her home with eight rescued cats and her dog Gordy, who is her ...more
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“Whatever we carry inside us shapes everyone we touch” 5 likes
“That for them, that war won't ever be over. I don't think any real war ever is - large, small, between countries, between people. Even the wars inside ourselves. Something always remains.” 1 likes
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