Henry is the heart of the Bommarito family. During their early childhood, River, the mother, often sank into a deep depression that felled her for days and weeks; her daughters, Cecilia, Isabelle, and Janie tried to manage. Caring for themselves, each other, and mostly for Henry—who is mentally challenged and often needs their assistance, as well as their protection.
Cecilia and Isabelle are fraternal twins, but they often feel each other’s anger, pain, and sadness. Janie copes by counting, checking, and isolating herself; she also writes bestselling crime novels. Isabelle is a well-known photographer, now sidelined from that career due to the horror she has witnessed in troubled parts of the world and a secret pain she keeps to herself. She also deals with certain aspects of her history by “sleeping around.” Cecilia is the one who remained close to home, but copes by overeating and lashing out at those around her.
When River requires surgery, Isabelle and Janie come home to Trillium River, the small Oregon village where their grandmother has a house, and where River has been living for several years. They are needed to help care for Henry and their grandmother, who believes she is Amelia Earhart.
Coming home brings many of the childhood memories to the forefront, and as each of Henry’s sisters tries to deal with their mother and each other, they experience all over again the troubled and painful life brought about by their mother’s neglect, frequent verbal abuse, and the abandonment by their father.
Henry’s Sisters is narrated in the first-person voice of Isabelle, but we soon come to understand and know each of the sisters and feel their emotional connections; despite their pain and anger, sometimes directed at one another, they clearly love and need each other.
So when one crisis after another challenges them, what will they do to get through? How will the family bakery begin to inspire their creativity and feed their souls? And when an unexpected reappearance from the past brings up unwelcome feelings, how will they cope?
As one final sad blow brandishes its fierceness, bringing out the best and worst in them, what will ultimately remind them again of the strength of their love for one another?
I enjoyed meeting and connecting with the characters in this book, all flawed, somewhat quirky, and totally human. I was sad to close the final page on this family. I could relate to aspects in each of them, but felt especially connected to Isabelle, trying to make a life on her terms, even as she struggled with the demons of her past. Five stars.