Daisy Johnson’s control of language keeps the reader utterly engaged in her new novel, Sisters, from the story’s opening words—a list in which each item begins with “My sister is” and ranges from “a black hole” to “a forest on fire”—all the way to the final searing sentences.
July and her older sister, September, have moved with their mother to the coast of England and into the old, deteriorating home where both September and her father were born. In this house, we see the ways that setting shapes everything that can, or might, unfold. We see where boundaries are and where they all but disappear.
The concept of boundaries is at the center of July and September’s relationship. So much of their interaction is predicated on September’s control. Interesting, too, is the mother’s voice and perspective in this story: when we hear from her and when we don’t; what she knows and what is hidden from her view.
As the novel unfolds, Johnson brings readers more fully into the complexities and contradictions of the sisters’ relationship. Where does one girl stop and the other begin? How does biology bind us? How do our actions impact someone else’s life? And how does a person find their own voice? The novel raises many questions, and even as it poses some answers through July and September’s story, many other curiosities—delightfully—remain.
Sisters casts a spell, and Johnson’s ability to make her language twist and turn, to hint and suggest at something much larger, is truly remarkable.