Now that summer is finally here, it’s time to find yourself a place in the sun and enjoy a good lake read. For a mixture of family, romance and a healthy dose of stardust, check out “The Sunshine Sisters” by Jane Green. Set in a Connecticut beach town, “The Sunshine Sisters” examines the relationships between three adult daughters of an aging screen legend. As their mother, the glamorous Ronni Sunshine, nears the end of her life, her daughters must confront the legacy of her flawed parenting and how it’s affected their own lives.
While the formula may be familiar, Jane Green injects so much personality and emotion into her characters that their stories feel unique and compelling. There’s Nell, the hardworking single mother who has turned herself off emotionally; Meredith, who could never measure up to her mother’s impossible standards; and Lizzy, their mother’s wild-child favorite, still avoiding life’s consequences well into her 30s. The women’s lives have taken them in different directions, but the impending death of their mother brings them home again to face down their demons.
Green jumps rights into the action and into the sisters’ complicated lives. The pages seem to turn themselves as you get deeper into each woman’s emotional baggage. The sisters’ lives are colorful and emotional, something like a juicy Lifetime movie.
Nell has rejected every man who comes near her, while Lizzy carries on a torrid affair and Meredith locks herself into a loveless engagement. They’re all compensating for their mother’s neglect, criticism and indulgence and Green serves it up like the best of guilty pleasures. Her ability to translate complicated emotions and relationships brings the sisters into vivid relief.
Lizzy’s failing marriage and Meredith’s low self-esteem are portrayed through a lens that readers can identify with, even if they’ve never experienced it themselves. Challenging relationships, particularly with siblings, are universal and Jane Green manipulates her characters with a deft hand.
If there’s a needle scratch moment to the book, it’s the somewhat rushed wrap-up at the end. The solutions are all a little too pat after the long emotional build up. And the character’s arcs all come full circle a little hastily. But if you can look past that, it makes for a hopeful, heart-warming conclusion.
We could all use a little vitamin D (for drama) this summer, and you can’t do better than “The Sunshine Sisters.”