Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Like a Sister

This isn't a review, because I'm still reading the book, but I wanted to give my space this week to shout about how goddamn great Kellye Garrett's Like A Sister is. 

If you don't know, here's the cover copy: 

I found out my sister was back in New York from Instagram. I found out she’d died from the New York Daily News.”

When the body of disgraced reality TV star Desiree Pierce is found on a playground in the Bronx the morning after her 25th birthday party, the police and the media are quick to declare her death an overdose. It’s a tragedy, certainly, but not a crime.

But Desiree’s half-sister Lena Scott knows that can’t be the case. A graduate student at Columbia, Lena has spent the past decade forging her own path far from the spotlight, but some facts about Desiree just couldn’t have changed since their childhood. And Desiree would never travel above 125th Street. So why is no one listening to her?

Despite the bitter truth that the two haven’t spoken in two years, torn apart by Desiree’s partying and by their father, Mel, a wealthy and influential hip-hop mogul, Lena becomes determined to find justice for her sister, even if it means untangling her family’s darkest secrets—or ending up dead herself.

If you know what I write, or what I frequently post about reading, this might seem like a bit of a departure from my usual comforts, and, to be honest, I can see how you'd make that assumption. The prose is light, the chapters structured like scenes between commercial breaks, and the book doesn't go for the full-bore darkness I usually gravitate towards. At least, it seems that way. But if you thought that, you'd be wrong. 

I'm not here to say that this is a secretly super gritty book, but rather to say it is a shockingly human book. 

Giving too much away would be a spoiler, and no one wants that, but I'd like to illustrate something. 

From the first sentence of Like a Sister, we know that Lena's sister, Desiree is dead. By the end of the second paragraph, we know exactly the kind of woman Desiree was. 

Or, we think we do, anyway.

But then, within the first ten pages, Garrett starts dropping in these little subchapters -  descriptions of Desiree's Instagram feed, presented in a present tense, with clinical prose that feels both bare and also menacing because of it's bareness - and we see Desiree, already dead, alive through these sections. We see her through our eyes, through her eyes, and through Lena's eyes. 

Like a Sister takes a murder victim and gives them space in the narrative for us to see them as a person. No longer is this a body. A macguffin. A headline in a paper. It's a life, captured and preserved in what is somehow one of the most joyous and also insidious applications all our phones have. It's a life we know is going to end soon. Violently. And though we know the outcome of that life, that we get to glimpse the aching humanity behind it? 

Holy shit, the dread that comes from those scenes. 

I'm about halfway through the book right now, and loving it. If you think this sounds good, I can't recommend it enough. And if you still think it's not up your alley? I'd ask you to reconsider. 

You can get Like a Sister here. 

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