Like most siblings, my sister and I used to squabble from time to time. Actually, to be honest, we fought quite a bit. Our arguments were always over the usual stuff: personal space, annoying habits, and who was loved more by our parents. My sister is younger and I thought she was babied; she thought I got more freedom because I’m older. Typical sibling rivalry.
Mom always said that it was easier having two children of the same gender—we could share a room, a hotel bed, and clothes. Besides, she’d claim, we’d always have built-in best friend. As if, we’d say.
As children, it was difficult to believe that we’d ever become close. We shared a room and all we could think about was getting away from one another. We’d create a barrier by draping a curtain across the center of the room so she’d have her side and I’d have mine. Unfortunately this was only ever a temporary situation because we slept in bunkbeds and one of us always had to cross the line. And just like that, the fighting would ensue.
But mom was right (and if she were alive, she’d be gloating right now): a sister is a built-in best friend. Now that we’re adults, and don’t live under the same roof (much less the same room), we talk almost every day. We call each other for advice, for comfort, for gossip, and to vent. And we talk about our own kids and how they squabble with their siblings and cousins.
Sisters Sally and Charlotte, in The Children, have always had a tight bond, one made even stronger by a mutual love for their late step-father Whit and amusement over their naively egocentric mother Joan. They tolerate each other’s eccentricities, and support each other through personal struggles. More than anything else though, they enjoy sharing adventures and telling each other secrets.
When their step-brother Spin announces that’s he’s engaged, Sally and Charlotte make it their mission to find out everything about his fiancée Laurel. How did she capture their brother’s heart so quickly? What makes her so special? And why, for cryin’ out loud, does she seem so perfect?
When Spin and Laurel move into the homestead to make plans for the wedding, Charlotte and Joan become infatuated with Laurel and her easy personality. But Sally isn’t as taken. Sure, Laurel’s beautiful and kind and smart, and Spin is happier than they’ve ever seen him, but Sally is convinced that something just isn’t quite right. But then again, Sally suffers from a bipolar disorder and paranoia so being overly dramatic isn’t something unusual for her.
As the summer wears on and the wedding plans take shape, Charlotte listens less and less to Sally’s opinions. Charlotte’s alter-ego blog persona has taken off, and her love life is finally gaining the stability she’s craved. Sally is known for occasional rants, and Charlotte has learned to take them in stride, this summer and the rants about Laurel being no exception.
But Charlotte forgot one important rule: always stick with your sister.
Ann Leary is the New York Times bestselling author of The Good House. The Children is her fourth novel. St. Martin’s Press, 2016.