REVIEW: THE ALMOST SISTERS, BY JOSHILYN JACKSON

 

Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs’ weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.

It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She’s having a baby boy—an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old’s life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel’s marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she’s been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood.

Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother’s affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she’s pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she’s got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie’s been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family’s freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.

 

My Thoughts: The first person voice of Leia Birch Briggs brings the reader into The Almost Sisters, the story of a young woman with a unique perspective on life; a woman who, as a girl, was often overshadowed by her stepsister Rachel, the blond pretty one. Rachel, who has a picture perfect life, but who is so determined to hold onto what is hers that she bit Leia when they were toddlers for calling Keith, Rachel’s father, “daddy.”

A girl like Leia has to carve out her own unique world and stand proud when others do not understand her. Even with Leia’s success, Rachel condescends and refers to her work as “your drawings.”

So when Rachel starts having marital problems, I wanted to smirk a little.

Meanwhile, in Birchville, Leia’s grandmother Birchie is going through some medical issues, so Leia, newly pregnant, and not having told anyone about her situation, drives to the rescue.

A lovely story that captivated me from the very beginning, I wanted to root for them all, even Rachel, eventually. The flavor of the South drew me in, as each character revealed his or her unique Southern charm…and sometimes meanness.

I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen to them all. Would Leia and her baby daddy reconnect? Would Rachel soften up her hard, mean shell? And how would Birchie’s secret change their lives? 5 stars.***

THE INTERIOR LIFE OF A SOUTHERN FAMILY — A REVIEW

I first saw this movie years ago and loved it.

What I enjoy most about this film is how the sleepy, seemingly unchanged Southern way of life comes apart slowly for this family…and then comes together again in a new version.

The movie opens with scenes of moonlight on water, and from there, we are gifted with wonderful moments that spotlight a relaxed and comfortable way of life.

Youngest daughter Lucille seems like an old soul, taking care of her father after her mother leaves them unexpectedly. I get a sense of how she wants everything to stay the same and fights for the permanence of the life she has envisioned.

But none of the family members stay the same. The father, Warren (Albert Finney) gradually begins to move beyond the four walls of the old family home, perfectly portrayed with spreading verandas and live oak trees surrounding it. His new woman friend (Piper Laurie) is like a breath of fresh air.

Meanwhile, his wife Helen (Jill Clayburgh) has moved into an independent life, one that allows for change.

When oldest daughter Rae comes home with a new husband, and announces her pregnancy, another change is forced upon them all.

Another favorite scene is when Rae, her husband Billy, and Lucille go out to a night club owned by a friend (Alfre Woodard), and Rae gets up to sing. Her husband is stunned. He knew nothing about this version of Rae.

In fact, the themes of this film are all about change…and how, in spite of what any of them want, change is inevitable. And not necessarily a bad thing.

A feel-good movie that shows that change can bring a richness to life, in spite of one’s fears, Rich in Love is one I’ll enjoy watching over and over.

I especially loved Finney’s portrayal of Warren Odom, as well as Suzy Amis’s ability to inhabit the role of Rae Odom.