My Sister’s Bones by Nuala Ellwood
My Sister’s Bones by Nuala Ellwood is a haunting tale.
War Reporter Kate Rafter returns to her home of Herne Bay after her mother passes away. Unfortunately, her state of mind after her recent stay in Aleppo is fractured. She is suffering from severe PTSD, insomnia, and nightmares. She is relying on sleeping pills to stop the flashbacks, and in particular, the loss of a small boy. Coming home brings it’s own set of nightmares. She is still hearing the screams of the child, and now she is sure that the child next door is being abused, although the neighbour assures her there is no child. Are the screams real, or are they memories?
There are lots of memories. Memories of her mother bring her joy and sadness. Memories of a father who physically abused her and Mom re-surface. Memories of her brother who did not make his second birthday torment her. Her demons are staying with her, but Kate is fighting. Her sister is no help. Sally is fighting her own demons, and she is letting them win. Sally’s daughter Hannah left a few years ago due to her mothers drinking, and since then, Sally has let the alcohol run her life.
The two sisters may have been raised in the same dysfunctional house, but their reactions to the experience differed. The beatings Kate suffered at the hands of her father made her stronger. Sally only received her fathers kindness, but her bitterness and anger toward Kate and her mother consumes her, and she feels they deserve the beatings they endured. Neither Sally’s husband Paul, nor daughter Hannah, can give Sally the help she needs. Having lived with her mother’s alcoholism for years, Hannah is no longer in the picture. Paul feels that Kate can give Sally the help she needs, but Sally pushes her away.
The story is told from the perspective of both sisters, but figuring out who is the most reliable source is sometimes a challenge. As events unfold, will the sisters finally be there for each other?
Although sometimes difficult to read, this story tackles some painful issues. PTSD, domestic and child abuse, mental health, drug and alcohol dependencies. These topics were handled with sensitivity, yet with directness. No punches were pulled. The situations, the emotions, the plot…all rang true.
The story also shows how a family can be torn apart, but forgiveness and love can still exist.
This was a really good debut novel. Ellwood is a very talented writer, and I hope to read more.
Read: April 2017
Favorite Quotes from My Sister’s Bones:
“What’s the old saying? All that’s necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing?”
“The experience of walking through mounds of mutilated bodies had affected me greatly and I remember thinking how lucky we were in the West, how chance dictated that some children were born into peace while others were born into conflict.”
“How can she be dead and I still be here?”
“And like most monsters, once you stand up to them you find that they are not as powerful as you thought.”
About the Author: Nuala Ellwood wanted to be a singer-songwriter, but ended up writing novels instead. Her father is a journalist, and his experiences of war inspired her to write this debut novel.