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Review: The Patterson Girls by Rachael Johns

on October 8, 2015

Patterson GirlsThe Patterson Girls
Rachael Johns
Harlequin MIRA Aus
2015, 496p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {courtesy of the publisher/}

How can four sisters build the futures they so desperately want, when the past is reaching out to claim them?

When the Patterson daughters return home to Meadow Brook to be with their father after their mother’s death, they bring with them a world of complication and trouble.

The eldest sister, obstetrician Madeleine, would rather be anywhere but her hometown, violinist Abigail has fled from her stellar career, while teacher Lucinda is struggling to have the children she and her husband so desperately want. The black sheep of the family, Charlie, feels her life as a barista and exercise instructor doesn’t measure up to that of her gifted and successful sisters.

Dealing with their bereft father who is determined to sell the family motel, their loves old and new and a series of troublesome decisions doesn’t make life any easier, but when they go through their mother’s possessions and uncover the shocking secret of an old family curse, they begin to question everything they thought they knew.

A warm and wise novel about secrets revealed, finding your soulmate and the unique bond between sisters.

It’s always a little scary when a favourite author tries something new. Their previous books are familiar, you always know what you’re going to get and it’s going to be good! There’s always a little nervous anticipation diving in when a writer deviates from their previous work, but it’s an excited anticipation. It’s the unknown and if you’re lucky, it will be just as fabulous but in a different way.

With The Patterson Girls, Rachael Johns moves from rural romance to the broader women’s/contemporary fic genre and neatly ties in the stories of four sisters, all returning to spend their first Christmas at home with their recently widowed father. Their mother died unexpectedly and her absence is felt keenly by each of the Patterson daughters, as well as her husband. Two of the daughters, obstetrician Madeleine and violinist Abby now live overseas. The two other daughters, teacher Lucinda and yoga teacher Charlie also live interstate so it’s not often that they all return together to their family home.

I don’t have a sister and sometimes I lament that but sometimes I’m actually rather glad of it. I have a brother and we have a wonderful relationship, I couldn’t ask for a closer sibling. But I do enjoy reading about sisters, perhaps because for me, it’s the unknown, the different relationship that I’ve never experienced. I have sisters-in-law, and get on rather well with one of them but it’s not quite the same. I think the sister dynamic can be difficult to get right because four, very different grown up women are going to interact in many and varied ways. They will love each other and they will at times, hate each other too, or at least fight. In this novel, each of the sisters is a fully fleshed out personality with attributes and faults and their personalities do often clash in believable and yet also silly ways – just as people who have known each other all their lives would.

Each of the sisters has an issue in their personal life and after the Christmas holiday is over all four of them once again find themselves back at home. Each of the girls’ stories are incredibly interesting and I found that I had little trouble relating to almost all of the sisters at one point or another in the story. I understood Lucinda’s longing for a child and her frustration at her mother-in-law’s attitude. I also understood how her longing could become an obsession driving a wedge between her and her husband Joe. Charlie was a favourite character of mine and her story is an absolute page turner! I don’t want to say too much about it for fear of spoiling anything but the twist in the story that involves Charlie is amazing and very well orchestrated. It’s an emotional rollercoaster – for both the characters and the reader!

To be honest I’m not really one for believing in curses or anything like that so I did wonder how I would go with that part of the story but I think it’s presented in a way that you can understand why the sister’s would begin to really start to question it, especially Lucinda who is searching for an answer, any answer to a question. I found myself quite enjoying the revelation about the curse and how it played out. There was something about the way it was written and something about the way the girls slowly came to question whether or not it was just rubbish or if there could really be something to it and it might explain a few things that they have begun to question and worry over. Each of them react to the news about the curse, some of them do things that are quite out of character and some of these things (probably most of these things) end up getting them into problematic situations. It’s how these situations get resolved that make for wonderful reading as each of the sisters put their lives back together, take on new challenges and head in different directions from the ‘before’ time, when their mother was still alive. Even their father begins to embrace change and the chance to live again.

I really enjoyed The Patterson Girls and I’m sure it’ll bring Rachael Johns new admirers. For her old fans, there are times when she hasn’t strayed too far from the familiar – Charlie and Mitch’s story could’ve probably made a full length rural! But there are more intricate layers here and more main characters are handled expertly with none losing out in depth and time in the limelight. Luckily for me, The Patterson Girls is just as fabulous as Johns’ other books, just in a different way!


Book #142 of 2015

aww-badge-2015The Patterson Girls is book #56 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015


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