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October 27, 2020

The Wicked Sister by Karen Dionne ~ a Review

by Susan Roberts

Sometimes when I close my eyes, there is a rifle in my hands. My hands are small; my fingers are pudgy. I'm eleven years old. There's nothing special about this particular rifle, nothing to distinguish it from any other Remington, except that this is the rifle that killed my mother. (p. 1)

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

The Wicked Sister
August 2020; G.P. Putnam's Sons; 978-0735213036
audio, ebook, print (304 pages); psychological thriller
I enjoyed Karen Dionne's first novel - The Marsh King's Daughter (read my review) and had high hopes for her new book and  I wasn't disappointed. The Wicked Sister has a page-turning plot, beautiful scenery, and a mystery that will keep the readers enthralled until the surprise ending.  The story is told in dual timelines by two important characters:

Jenny tells the timeline from the past.  She is the mother of Diana and Rachel.  She gives us the information on why she and her husband moved to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan into a family-owned lodge in an isolated area.  She tells us about her daughter Diana and how she and her husband worry about her mental stability and what a difficult child she was.  She and her husband hoped that living in the wilderness would help Diana get better and would give her and Rachel a chance to grow up where they could learn about nature.

Rachel is the second daughter.  When the novel begins, she has been in an insane asylum for 15 years.  She went to the mental hospital after her parents were killed and she believed that she had killed them.  Being in the hospital for so long hasn't really changed her feelings of guilt until she agrees to tell her story to a young journalism student.  He begins to dig up facts that make her question her original assumption -- maybe she didn't kill her parents, maybe someone else did it and she saw it happen and was traumatized by it.  The possibility that she wasn't guilty makes her want to find out who really killed them.  As Rachel begins to uncover what really happened on the day her parents were murdered, she learns—as her mother did years earlier—that home can be a place of unspeakable evil, and that the bond she shares with her sister might be the most poisonous of all.

The Wicked Sister takes place in a remote area in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  The landscape and the giant lodge that they live in are so well described that I could see them in my mind.  The book is about family and love, mental illness, and fear with a little magic mixed in.   About halfway through the book, I felt like I knew how the book would end but there were still several surprises that I didn't see coming.  This was a fantastic second novel for Karen Dionne and I can't wait to read her next book.

A teaser

"I weep for the poor eleven-year-orphan so traumatized by her parents' deaths she had to be committed to a mental institution, for the desperately lonely and suicidal teenager she became, for the twenty-six-year-old woman I am today who was so convinced that her life had no value she believed that living in a mental hospital was the best she deserved...Everything I sacrificed was to no purpose.  Everything I believed was a lie." (loc 287)

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Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina with her husband of over 50 years.  She grew up in Michigan but now calls North Carolina home. Since her travel plans had to be canceled for this year, she is starting to make plans for travel in 2021. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and historical fiction. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter.

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  1. Wow! Both excerpts grabbed me, but the teaser reeled me in. Thanks for sharing, and here's mine: “THE UNDOING”

    1. THE UNDOING sounds great - I added it to my lists. Thanks

  2. grabbed my attention for sure! I'd keep reading