Book review: The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green

The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green
The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green
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At the age of 65, one time actress and movie star Ronni Sunshine is dying from motor neurone disease…

Ronni, the narcissistic mother who always preferred her career to her children, would like to have lived longer but she could never have coped with growing old and she has come to terms with her incurable illness. Now all she wants is to heal the broken relationship between her three estranged daughters… and persuade them to help her end her own life.

Jane Green, the bestselling author who eschewed London journalism for novel writing and now lives in Connecticut with her husband and family, is on cracking form in an emotion-packed story of love, loss, mothers and daughters.

But as the title so neatly suggests, The Sunshine Sisters is not doom and darkness but a funny, engaging and thought-provoking tale which tackles serious subjects with the wit, warmth and wisdom that we have come to expect from this observant and entertaining author.

It was never easy, being one of Ronni Sunshine’s daughters. Publicly, she was the glamorous, successful actress but privately, she was a self-absorbed, angry, disinterested and narcissistic mother who alienated her three daughters.

Now, Ronni is dying and she is full of regrets, knowing only too well that she could have been ‘a better wife, a better mother, a better friend.’

Her three grown-up daughters – Nell, Meredith, and Lizzy – are largely estranged, both from her, and from each other and all are going through crises of their own. But Ronni is adamant that they must come home, and help her take her own life.

As soon as possible, tomboy Nell fled her mother’s overbearing presence long ago to work on a farm and find her own way in the world as a single mother. The target of her mother’s criticism, Meredith never felt good enough, thin enough or pretty enough. Her life took her to London and into the arms of a man whom she may not even love.

And Lizzy, the youngest, more like Ronni than any of them, seemed to have it easy, using her drive and ambition to build a culinary career to rival her mother’s fame, while her marriage crumbled around her.

As their mother’s illness draws them together to confront the past, the sisters find themselves slipping back into ‘the roles’ they had always played and they discover that blood might be thicker than water after all…

The Sunshine Sisters is a glittering read, an intriguing exploration of family dynamics, sisterhood, the corrosive impact of neglectful parenthood and failed relationships, but also the ties that bind us together through the slings and arrows of life and love.

As we follow the Sunshine sisters in their quest to resolve fears and jealousies in the past, and find the strength – and the will – to forgive their mother, there are tears, laughter and memories to put to rest.

Weaving between past and present, Green creates a vibrant and moving story, slowly developing her lead players and beguiling us with her intuitive grasp of the joys and pitfalls of both sibling and mother-daughter relationships.

Bright, breezy and beautifully created, this is the perfect addition to your beach read pile.

(Pan, paperback, £7.99)