Title: The Sparrow Sisters
Author: Ellen Herrick
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
Format: Advanced Reader Copy
Rating: 4 stars
The Sparrow Sisters is the story of three women living in the small New England town of Granite Point. Sorrel, Nettie, and Patience Sparrow are the last of the Sparrow line, one of the founding families of the town. The sisters are a legend in the town, especially Patience who is known by the women in the community for her homemade remedies. When tragedy strikes, the townspeople begin to turn on the Sisters, and in return nature itself seems to turn on the town.
The back cover copy on my ARC described the book has having “echoes of the alchemy of Practical Magic, the lushness of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, and the darkly joyful wickedness of the Witches of East End…” and I just couldn’t resist. Plus, there’s a slight tie in to witch hunting craze of the Salem Witch Trials, a topic I’ve recently become fascinated with, so I really couldn’t resist.
After reading the book I find the comparison to Witches of East End is actually a little diminishing, as The Sparrow Sisters is a much richer, more complex, and better written novel. I believe a much better and more accurate comparison would be to Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells. This novel contains the same hint of magical realism that I love so much in Allen’s writing, which is one of the reasons I enjoyed this book so much. In the world of The Sparrow Sisters, magic doesn’t technically exist and none of the characters intentionally practice magic, but there are plenty of unexplainable things that point to some element of magic. It’s subtle and very well done.
This novel takes place in a very small town and all the characters are beautifully complex and have complicated relationships with each other. I love how well-developed each character felt, and how they interacted with the Sisters as well as the rest of the town. They all have history with each other, with the exception of Henry, the new doctor in town. Henry is kind of the reader’s entrance point into this little microcosm – we learn things as he learns things. He’s also the skeptic, the character that has to be convinced of the Sisters’ abilities. He was a perfect foil for many of the other characters throughout the novel.
Another aspect of this novel that stood out to me was the idea of female empowerment. When the men of the town start to turn against the Sisters, it’s all the women who must learn to stand together and stand up to their husbands, brothers, sons, in order to defend Patience and make sure justice prevails. It’s the women who take care of the town. Some could argue that the book supports gender roles in that these women are stereotypical in the way they provide for their “menfolk” but I disagree. I think it shows that there is a power in being the woman of the house, in caring for you husband and your children; that you can be a strong, powerful and influential woman whether you’re CEO of a company or a stay-at-home mom in a small town. Also, it shows that when the issue is something you care about, you need to make your voice, and your opinion heard.
A lot of the books I’ve read this summer I’ve recommended as beach reads, but this is a perfect Fall read. It’s exactly the kind of book I would want to curl up with on a bright fall day, with a warm cup of caramel apple cider. The Sparrow Sisters will be out September 1st so if, like me, you’re already planning your fall reading list I suggest you add this one somewhere near the top. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys their literature with just a hint of magic. As I mentioned above, fans of Sarah Addison Allen will likely love this novel; it captures your imagination in all the right ways.