In February, I opted for two selections via Book of the Month. One was a release from December 2017 (I think) and the other was a new release. My mother in law and I decided to buddy read the new release toward the end of the month.
I thought The Winter Sister would end up being one of my favorite books from the month, but it wasn’t. In fact, it might be my least favorite book from the month. We’ll dive into it more in depth further into this review, but for now what you need to know is this book was average at best.
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
Sixteen years ago, Sylvie’s sister Persephone never came home. Out too late with the boyfriend she was forbidden to see, Persephone was missing for three days before her body was found—and years later, her murder remains unsolved.
In the present day, Sylvie returns home to care for her estranged mother, Annie, as she undergoes treatment for cancer. Prone to unexplained “Dark Days” even before Persephone’s death, Annie’s once-close bond with Sylvie dissolved in the weeks after their loss, making for an uncomfortable reunion all these years later. Worse, Persephone’s former boyfriend, Ben, is now a nurse at the cancer center where Annie is being treated. Sylvie’s always believed Ben was responsible for the murder—but she carries her own guilt about that night, guilt that traps her in the past while the world goes on around her.
As she navigates the complicated relationship with her mother, Sylvie begins to uncover the secrets that fill their house—and what really happened the night Persephone died. As it turns out, the truth really will set you free, once you can bear to look at it.
The Winter Sister is a mesmerizing portrayal of the complex bond between sisters, between mothers and daughters alike, and forces us to ask ourselves—how well do we really know the people we love most?
Not Quite Riley Sager
Look, it’s not really a secret that my favorite book of 2018 was The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager. I read it in July and I’m still obsessing over it months later. I love Sager’s writing and he really knows how to create a thriller that I’m invested in. At one point in this book, I had a flashback to The Last Time I Lied and felt pretty pissed because I thought Megan Collins was going to rip off his work (thank goodness she didn’t).
Here’s the thing: Sylvie (our main character) is an artist. She also behaves pretty similarly to our main character (Emma) in The Last Time I Lied. The parallels stopped there, but boy, was I worked up for a minute!
Annie is the Worst
There are fewer things I despise more in literature than horrible mothers. I’m coining it a trope though because I’ve read more than my fair share of bab mom books. Quite literally, Annie O’Leary might top that list of bad moms though. She is the absolute worst.
Not only does she care unequally for her daughters, she emotionally shuts down when Persephone goes missing. I understand the grief one must feel over the loss of a child, but just because you’ve lost one child doesn’t mean you can emotionally abandon the living child. That’s the most surefire way of fucking a kid up – and Annie does exactly this to Sylvie. I hated her character. She didn’t even have a single redeeming quality.
Sylvie is childish…
The story starts out when Sylvie is 14 and flashes between memories of when she and Persephone were growing up and present day. Present day Sylvie is 30 goddam years old, but acts like she’s about 16. It’s annoying. I felt myself more and more frustrated at her.
Sure she felt as if her actions AS A CHILD came into play when Persephone was murdered, but at some point, I expected her to get over the guilt. She couldn’t let it go and at no point was therapy for Sylvie mentioned. She clearly needed it!
Impulsive and Predictable
A lot of this book seems to be built on impulsiveness. At one point Sylvie point blank accuses Ben of murdering her sister even though the police say it wasn’t him. While this is technically a spoiler, I firmly believe that if you actually read this book, you won’t even suspect Ben.
This leads me into the predictability portion of my review. I had two theories about this book. One was mostly right and I figured it out around the middle of the novel. When I realized I actually was right I almost didn’t finish the book because it didn’t seem worth my time at that point. (But given I was almost at the end I did end up finishing, hence the review).
It was a well written story, but it was just a little too predictable. Throw me some curveballs, Megan!
Though this is a well written novel, I found myself increasingly frustrated and angry with the characters. I don’t think there was a single character I liked, except maybe Jill, and overall the narrator didn’t behave the way a 30 year old woman is expected to. She was too childish and not quite sleuthy enough for my liking. As for the predictability element, I could’ve used a few twists. Everything I expected to happen, did happen.
I guess I just feel like this book didn’t challenge me enough. I need something to surprise me in the mystery genre and this fell short for me. However, one thing I will say I didn’t think this was a debut novel, but it was!
It could have been better, but it could have been much, much worse. I enjoyed the writing and would recommend to people who want to feel like Sherlock Holmes in their deductions. (I’ve been bingeing Sherlock lately, if you can’t tell!)
Did you read The Winter Sister? What were some of your thoughts?
Book of the Month Book Reviews Debut Novels From My Library bee the booknerd book blogger Book of the Month Book Reviews botmreviews megan collins mystery/thriller probably not for me The Winter Sister
lover of literature. librarian in training.