There are many secrets in The
Sisters, beginning with Mabel’s
decision not to tell Bertie about Jim
Butcher. In trying to understand her
sister’s behavior, fourteen-year-old
Bertie wonders if “the things she
didn’t know were what kept her safe.”
What secrets do other characters keep, and
how do you think the secrets ultimately
help or hurt their loved ones?
2. How does the period in which each woman
comes of age affect her experience and
shape her outlook on what is possible?
3. How do the main characters perceive
loyalty? Betrayal? What do you think of
4. How do Bertie’s girlhood losses affect
her daughters’ and granddaughters’
relationships with men?
5. Bertie, Alma, and Lynn are accused by
other characters of being hard and cold.
How do you see them? To what extent do you
think they change in the course of the
6. At the end of her life, Bertie struggles
to cry out to Rainey and
, “Forgive. Forgive.” Why do you
believe some characters are able to forgive
and others not? Do you believe everything
can or should be forgiven?
7. What does the novel suggest about
whether families are born or made?
8. When Daisy expresses her concern that
Mabel is setting herself up for emotional
pain by photographing young men bound for
, Mabel tells Daisy, “You can’t protect
yourself from loss.” Do you think this is
true? What happens to the characters in the
novel, and to people in your experience,
when they try?
9. In her interview with Ed Bradley, Mabel
says, “I don’t think any real war [is
ever over]—large, small, between
countries, between people. Even the wars
inside ourselves. Something always
remains.” Do you agree—in the novel
and/or in real life?
structured as a series of chronological,
interlocking narratives, sometimes with
strikingly different perspectives of the
same events. In what ways does this
structure reflect the experience of an
individual within a family?