Monday, 11 October 2010

While My Sister Sleeps - Barbara Delinsky

Molly and Robin Snow are sisters in the prime of their lives. So when Molly learns that Robin - an Olympic athlete and the favorite child - has suffered a massive heart attack, the news couldn't be more shocking. At the hospital, the Snow family receives a grim prognosis: Robin may never regain consciousness. 

Feelings of guilt and jealousy flare up as Robin's family struggles to cope and their relationships are put to the ultimate test. It's up to Molly to make the tough decisions, and she soon makes discoveries that destroy some of her most cherished beliefs about the sister she thought she knew.

Once again Barbara Delinsky brings us a masterful family portrait, filled with thought-provoking ideas about the nature of life itself, how emotions affect the decisions we make, and how letting go can be the hardest thing to do and the greatest expression of love all at the same time.

As anyone who knows me will know, I really respect the writing of Barbara Delinsky. I seem to read at least one of her books every month, and although they can hardly be considered "comfort reads" because of the issues they cover and the way that families are torn apart, there is something very enjoyable about exploring the lives of real people who experience real problems. I like books that make me think "What if?" Jodi Picoult's novels also have this affect on me, but I find that I prefer Barbara Delinsky. The tag-line on the copy of my book reads "Fans of Jodi Picoult will love this" which, in my opinion, isn't entirely accurate. Jodi Picoult deals with controversial issues, whereas Barbara Delinsky tends to look at the ramifications of a situation on a family. This book focuses on one event - the family favourite, a runner in her early thirties, collapsing due to heart problems and needing to be on life-support - and how the individual family members react. 

The protagonist of the novel is Molly, the youngest sibling who feels overshadowed by her older sister. Now that Robin is lying on a hospital bed and her mother can't bear to leave her, Molly finds that responsibilities fall to her. She has to take over her mother's duties at the garden nursery where they both work, as well as fending off Robin's reporter ex-boyfriend whose intentions may or may not be good. In the process, Molly ends up making a new friend, one who isn't interested in her just because of who her sister is. He helps her to discover new things about herself, and uncover the truth about what Robin thought about her. By the end of the novel, each family member has changed in some way, from Molly to her mother to her older brother who is starting his own family. 

I really liked Molly's character and enjoyed watching her grow and mature throughout the novel. Initially, I wasn't too keen on her as she seemed determined that there was no way that she could come out from under Robin's shadow, but as the story progressed this changed. I also warmed up to Kathryn, the mother, who had issues of her own to deal with. My only gripe with this story was Chris, Molly's older brother, who although having his own sub-plot, didn't seem a very well developed character. His story did link in with the main story but it seemed to be resolved far too quickly and tacked on in an awkward manner. I also got annoyed whenever one character said "Omigod!" as it made them sound like a twelve-year-old girl! 

Fortunately, these were my only issues with this book. Otherwise, it contained great characters and brilliant conflict, as all of Barbara Delinsky's novels do. I could really imagine myself being in these character's shoes and wondered how I would cope with a similar situation. There were a couple of teary moments, so be prepared, but by the end of the book I was satisfied with how the characters grew and changed as they learned to deal with the issues facing them. 9/10


  1. Oh Rachel, this sounds like such a good book in the tradition of Jodi Picoult. I am going to add it to my To-Read list right now!

  2. I think you'll like it, Diane. She is similar to Jodi Picoult in that she deals with families coming through times of turmoil together and current "issues", but I find Barbara Delinsky easier to read, personally. She's not so dramatic or intense. I also noticed in this book - probably the same case in her others - that there were no instances of foul language, which is always a nice surprise when reading a secular novel!