Finding a perfect pair of pre-loved shoes that may or may not have magical qualities doesn’t just transform Willow Briars’ life, it also transforms the story.
While I liked The Other Sister, by Rowan Coleman, from the start, I didn’t love it until those shoes entered the picture, which my Kindle tells me was about 10% into the book.
It is like someone sprinkled fairy dust on to the pages at that point and the story suddenly came alive – and perhaps that is completely intended, reflecting Willow’s life before and after?
My advice is to buy this book and keep going because you will be rewarded with an intricate, well-written and emotional tale about courage, love, dealing with the past and grabbing on to happiness.
Here’s the synopsis.
Every family has its secrets…
Willow and Holly are identical twins, as close as two sisters can be.
But while Holly has gone through life being the ‘good twin’, Willow has always been the less than perfect one. Holly is happily married, Willow is divorced and almost twice her twin’s size. And while she puts on a brave face to the world, Willow knows she’s been hiding her unhappiness for far too long.
So when the past catches up with her, Willow realises it’s finally time for her to face her fears, and – with her sister’s help – finally deal with the secrets of their childhood before it’s too late.
This book has been re-issued with a new title (it was called Lessons In Laughing Out Loud before). I’m not sure why but I’m glad otherwise I might never have read it.
While I wasn’t enthralled straight away I did become firmly attached to the story (and to Willow) – so much so I want to shout about it and to encourage people to read it.
The characters are complex but so well written that you understand what makes them tick without really realising that it’s been explained.
As hinted at in the synopsis, there is a dark element relating to Willow’s childhood, which could be a trigger for some, but I felt it was dealt with sensitively and honestly.
The magic hinted at is more grounded in whimsy than the fantastical, in my view anyway, but it’s open to interpretation. I adore pre-loved things and part of the reason is because of their past lives, their connection to other people (as well as the obvious environmental and financial benefits). I think speculating about the items Willow comes away with from the mysterious shop she stumbles upon, including the shoes, is a lovely part of the story.
I will be on the look out for more Rowan Coleman books (new and old).
My rating: Four stars.
Thank you to Ebury Press (via NetGalley) for the review copy in return for my honest opinion.