Today’s post by our Book Club Columnist Melissa Hambrick
Here’s the problem.
I have this book club column to write. And I want to tell you all about this fantastic book that my clubbers and I just read—Sister by Rosamund Lupton.
But I can’t. Because I can’t trust myself NOT to tell you something that will lead you to the shocking, oh-my-gosh-I-didn’t-see-that-coming ending, as we get to know Beatrice and find out what has happened to her sister Tess in this mystery-within-a-mystery.
I’ll do my best to talk around it, to instead tell you about the wonderful and super easy potato soup that we had, the crusty bread, the leafy salad with homemade dressing. The cherry-chocolate cake.
Because surely a moist, cherry-chocolate cake should be able to keep me from spilling all the details about how much Beatrice loves her sister, Tess. How she immerses herself in finding out what has happened to her, and how, as one clubber put it, Beatrice almost transforms into Tess. Lives in her apartment, wears her clothes—all the subtle things that bond these sisters tighter and tighter through the story, until—
Nope, cherry-chocolate cake isn’t enough.
Maybe if I share the recipe for the potato soup—I mean, it was so easy! I love any potato soup that starts with a package of frozen hash browns and means I don’t have to stand there, slicing and dicing.
I have better things to do with my time than slave over a hot stove. I could be reading a great book, of course, like Sister. Maybe thinking about my own sister, and the ways that we think we know each other so well, but the truth is that maybe we never really know each other. People aren’t always what they seem—which reminds me of all the different times my club and I thought we knew what happened to Tess when we were reading. Each of us was sure of it. And then—
Potato soup isn’t going to cut it either.
Perhaps the crusty bread, so crunchy on the outside and soft inside, with real butter. Because I think life is short and we should all eat real butter and savor it. Kind of the way that we really savored Lupton’s writing style, how she evoked such feelings from her descriptions. How the details about Tess unfold as the story progresses.
We loved the way Lupton took risks in her storytelling, moving backward and forward in time and leading the reader on a winding path full of uncertainty. In some ways, the more detail we found out, the less we knew about the eventual ending of the story. One of our clubbers said she loved the twists, but the ending left her a bit unsatisfied; that she’d made the investment and wanted a concrete ending, even an epilogue.
But a good book leaves you wanting more (kind of like a good meal that makes you wish you had room for just one more bite). My thought is that sometimes a book is better when it doesn’t tie everything up in a nice bow at the end. Maybe, like for my friend, it might be an ending you don’t love, or that keeps you wanting too much. But if it keeps you thinking after that last chapter, then not only is it a great book—it’s a great book club book.
So, along those lines, enough with the food-based procrastination. Here are a few questions to keep you and your book club talking about Sister. I’m sure you can dig up a little something to snack on while you chat—maybe even some potato soup.
- What did you think of the twist and the ending? What do you think happened?
- Did you feel that Beatrice was a reliable narrator throughout the book? Did you ever question her story?
- Journalist and author Elizabeth Fishel says “A sister is both your mirror—and your opposite. ” Beatrice and Tess are very different. What separates them? What brings them together?
- Looking back, our club has read several books that have to do with ethical choices, many of them medical or genetic in nature (Sister; The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot; Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishigura; Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder). We didn’t pick them because of those topics, but of course they made for great discussion. What has your club read that are thematic, and what do you think draws you to the theme?
- We often make judgments about people we think we know, especially those closest to us. Short of stepping into their lives and literally wearing their clothes, as Beatrice does with her sister, how can we find ways to better understand them?
Easy Crockpot Potato Soup
1 30 oz. bag of frozen, cubed hash browns
3 14 oz. cans of chicken broth
1 can of cream of chicken soup
½ cup onion, chopped
¼ tsp. ground pepper
1 pkg. cream cheese (don’t use fat free—it won’t melt)
In a crockpot, combine everything EXCEPT for the cream cheese. Cook for 6-8 hours on low heat. About 1 – 2 hours before serving, add cream cheese and keep heated until thoroughly melted. Serve with cheese, sour cream, bacon bits, green onions, or whatever else you think would be good!
Melissa Hambrick is the She Reads book club columnist. She is also a former entertainment industry PR exec, a full-time stay-at-home mom of two boys and a part-time volunteer for any school function that she didn’t scrunch down in her seat far enough to avoid. Having written for numerous publications, including Home Life and Today’s Christian Woman, and with chapter one of what is sure to be a bestselling novel stored in her laptop for the last year and a half, she blogs at WordMom.com less frequently than she probably should. Her book club, which she lovingly dubs 'overachievers anonymous,’ actually has a strange preference for books they don’t really love, which they find leads to much more interesting conversation.