Lian Dolan’s new novel, The Sweeney Sisters not only has one of the most stunning covers released this year; it’s also a great book to add to your Summer TBR. If you’re looking for an engrossing read full of family secrets and strong women keep reading this full review of The Sweeney Sisters.
Their trademark red hair may be the only thing the three Sweeney sisters have in common.
First there’s family-centered Eliza, who lives only a few blocks from the house they grew up in Connecticut, caring for her children and husband along with her widowed father.
Then there is the artistic “Mad” Maggie who goes sheds men and careers regularly in an effort to find herself.
Finally, career-focused Tricia, climbing the corporate ladder at her New York law firm without much time for anything resembling a personal life.
But despite very different personalities, the Sweeney sisters have always had an unbreakable bond.
Then their father, acclaimed author Bill Sweeney, unexpectedly dies.
The sisters know they can count on each other as they try to make sense of the loss and try to make arrangements to settle his estate.
They don’t count on the mess he left behind.
There’s no money, a sketchy literary agent skimming royalties, and a long-lost half-sister they never knew about.
Serena, the unacknowledged daughter of Bill Sweeney, inherited a love of writing from the father she never got to have a relationship with.
Will Serena always be an outsider, or will she be able to become one of them and be embraced as the fourth Sweeney Sister?
Or does her presence threaten the lifelong bond of the other three, along with their father’s legacy?
The Sweeney Sisters beautifully combines the nuance and themes of family drama, with the heart and warmth of women’s fiction. It really is the best of both genres, having equal amounts of sharpness and sentimentality.
The four central women in this story couldn’t be more different, but they do have two things in common: their red hair and their complexity.
All the characters in the book have a level of nuance to them, but especially so with the four daughters of the late literary giant Bill Sweeney.
I’m impressed with Dolan’s care in making these women believable and multifacated, along with the journey they each embark on in the book. Not a single one of the four ends the novel in the same place, emotionally or physically, that she started in. All of the transformations are believable and in character. Instead of outright changing, Dolan paints each woman as coming into her own and being a fuller, truer version of the self they were all along.
In addition to stunning characters as individuals, The Sweeney Sisters explores familial bonds of every kind. From the friction between the very different sisters, to each of their personal relationships, to their collective disillusionment with their larger than life father after his death, the Sweeney girls give ample opportunity to dissect the complex emotions and relationships in our lives.
The novel also explores small-town life and the struggle to keep up appearances. These themes are not developed as well as the family dynamics, but it adds another dimension to the story, which is nice.
Unlike with some character-driven novels, the plot felt fresh and moved along steadily as the sisters navigated life without their father. The plot is enjoyable and satisfying, but getting to know these four women is what will draw the reader in most.
Ultimately, the novel ends in a way that has enough of the loose ends tied up to satisfy, while still giving the impression that the women are moving forward. They may not have everything in their lives completely in place, but they’ve certainly come a long way. The ending stays true to the characters and leaves them in a hopeful place, which was a good choice from Dolan.
The Sweeney Sisters is a charming, five-star family drama with a lot of heart. It’s definitely one you should read if you’re looking for something balanced right between light and thoughtful.
Many thanks to NetGalley and William Morrow for the advance copy in return for an honest review of The Sweeney Sisters.
divorce, sudden death of parent, cancer, miscarriage, infidelity, depression