By Sally Hepworth
“Can I say something?” he says. “I know you love your sister, but…” He shakes his head, sighs. “Something isn’t right about her.”
**spoilers**Seriously, don’t read this review unless you’ve already read the book, or have no plans to read it.
I don’t understand why all of the descriptions and promotional material for this book tout that there are two unreliable narrators in this psychological thriller about two twin sisters. Rose starts out portrayed as the caring, protective sister. She is telling her side of the story through a journal that her therapist has suggested she write to heal from the childhood abuse that she suffered at the hands of her cruel sadistic mother. Fern is a librarian with sensory processing issues. She finds loud noises, bright lights, and people being too close very uncomfortable. She does not pick up on social cues and takes people’s words literally. She is very awkward and sometimes embarrassing in her interactions with others, much to the readers’ entertainment. she reminded me a lot of Eleanor in Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.
Although there was a niggling doubt (solely because of the “two unreliable narrators” reviews), I was pretty well convinced who the good sister and who the bad sister was was about a fifth of the way through. The first thing that tipped me off was that at one juncture, early on, Rose refers to “you”, a reader of what is supposed to be her private journal. If she’s expecting someone to read the journal, she must have an ulterior motive outside of self-therapy. Around that time, there is a suggestion that Rose might be gaslighting Fern over not feeding Rose’s dog while Rose is in London. Finally, we realize that the target of the mother’s abuse was always Rose, and hardly ever Fern. No person could emerge undamaged from being targetted like Rose supposedly was. Thus, Rose is outted whether she is telling the truth or telling lies. We only have Rose’s and the trusting Fern’s words to know Rose, while we come to see how Fern interacts with and how she is thought of by dozens of objective “outsiders.”
But even without that Fern is just totally lovable and responsible for a lot of humor in the book. The characters in the book respect and even love her or learn to love her despite her eccentric behavior. She also has a love story. The love interest is Rocco, who Fern calls “Wally” because he looked like the “Where’s Waldo” character when she first meets him. He is another one of Fern’s friends and advocates who endears himself to the reader right from the beginning. We learn very early on that he is much more than whom he seems on the surface.
Well before the halfway point all but the most oblivious reader will pretty much have come to some correct conclusions about Rose. The evidence has been building and continues to build. From there it starts to turn from a mystery into a thriller when we realize that Fern is in some kind of grave danger from her sister. There are no twists towards the end of the story, it’s just that the whole truth is revealed a layer at a time. We don’t understand until the concluding pages just how evil and mad Rose has been all of her life.
I really loved this page-turner for the suspense and tension, the humor, the growth that we see Fern achieve, and the sweet love story. I admire the portrayal of the sisters and the gradual reveal of their characters. We learn that part of Rose’s personality is Narcissism. The crowning revelation is the last entry in Rose’s journal which comes as a bombshell as to just how narcissistic and delusional she really is.**5 stars out of 5**
June 18, 2021