Her Sister's Shoes
By Ashley Farley
Set in the South Carolina Lowcountry and packed with Southern charm and memorable characters, Her Sister’s Shoes is the story of three sisters—Samantha, Jackie, and Faith—who struggle to balance the demands of career and family while remaining true to themselves.
Samantha Sweeney has always been the glue that holds her family together, their go-to girl for love and support. When an ATV accident leaves her teenage son in a wheelchair, she loses her carefully constructed self-control.
In the after-gloom of her dreaded fiftieth birthday and the discovery of her husband’s infidelity, Jackie realizes she must reconnect with her former self to find the happiness she needs to move forward.
Faith lacks the courage to stand up to her abusive husband. She turns to her sisters for help, placing all their lives at risk.
In the midst of their individual challenges, the Sweeney sisters must cope with their mother’s mental decline. Is Lovie in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, or is her odd behavior normal for a woman her age? No one, including Lovie, understands her obsession with a rusty key she wears around her neck.
For fans of Elin Hildebrand, Her Sister’s Shoes is a contemporary women’s novel that explores and proves the healing power of family
A massive thank you to Ashley Farley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
I first stumbled across Ashley Farley’s books on Netgalley with ‘Lowcountry Stranger’ and I loved it and her description of the Sweeney family. As ‘Lowcountry Stranger is the second book in this series I read it first and then couldn’t wait to read this one to see how the story had initially developed.
‘Her sister’s shoes’ is set in the South Carolina lowcountry in a quaint little town called Prospect. The story is centered round the three Sweeney sisters: Samantha, Jackie and Faith and their struggle to find a balance between their work life and their home life whilst keeping some time for themselves.
Samantha Sweeney, the middle sister, is there for everyone else in the family in their time of need, she is the emotionally stable one, but lately she hasn’t been feeling like she has everything under control. Her son Jamie has been left in a wheelchair after an ATV accident which killed his best friend. Try as she might she can’t get through to him and break through his new surly attitude. On top of that she has been renovating the family business since the first time it was opened by her parents decades ago. On top of that there is her intense distrust of all men, including the cute police officer who seems to have taken a shine to her. Is Sam her own worst enemy?
Jackie, the eldest, has spent months planning her 50th birthday party but after discovering her husband has had an affair Jackie’s party feels a little flat. After years spent working in someone else’s’ interior design company she know finds herself pushed out by her boss and at a loss with what to do with her life now especially as her sons will soon be off to college. She needs to discover her identity outside that of a wife and mother. Jackie is described as “the picture of elegance” but what else is there to her?
Faith, the youngest sister, is trapped in an abusive marriage with her childhood sweetheart Curtis. Finally, after she begins to fear for her daughter’s life, she asks for her families help.
To top it all off, their mother Lovie seems to be exhibiting all the signs of Alzheimer’s. Her increasingly bizarre and obsessive behaviour causes somewhat of a rift between the sisters’ in terms of how to deal with her.
The opening line of the book establishes a sense of tradition and sets the tone for the rest of the book. “Lovie and Oscar Sweeney had been providing vacationers to the South Carolina Coast with fresh-from-the-Ocean seafood since opening their doors in May of 1959 – and little had changed since then.”
I love the author’s vivid descriptions, “The creaking floorboards and the dusty shelves welcomed them back year after year, just as the pungent odour of the marsh at low tide greeted them upon arrival in the small inlet town of Prospect.”
The characters are what make this book, not all of them are likeable but each one is unique and captivating in their own way and made this a book I couldn’t wait to read each day.
Jackie was one of the characters that I didn’t find particularly likeable. She came across as selfish, stuck-up and self-absorbed and ultimately the cause of a lot of her problems. For example, when Sam discusses the idea of Jackie’s sons helping out in the family store Jackie responds by saying, “this may come as a surprise to you, but I have higher inspirations for my boys than running a seafood market.” Jackie definitely comes across as a bit of a snob.
When Sam sees Jackie’s husband with another woman Sam ponders that Jackie probably wouldn’t tell her even if she knew of the affair because ‘they didn’t confide in each other the way most sisters did.”
Faith was definitely my favourite of the three sisters. Faith is described as, “every bit as pretty as Jackie but in a less sophisticated way”, but a lot of that is about her confidence or lack thereof.
Faith’s husband Curtis has been out of work for a long time and has been drinking more and becoming meaner with each passing day. Everything we learn about him confirms him as lazy, obnoxious and manipulative.
Possibly my favourite description of a character is the description of their father’s friend Mack, “with gray frizzy hair and scruffy beard, cigar stub dangling from his lower lip, Captain Mack was an old salt of a man, his body scarred from his many adventures at sea.”
It was good to learn more about Oscar Sweeney, the sister’s father. Oscar was around eight years old when his family emigrated from Dublin to Maine. Oscar intensely disliked the cold Maine Winter and as soon as he could he escaped to South Carolina. Three weeks after moving there he met Lovie whilst she was window shopping. Her family were reluctant at first to accept Oscar but he soon won them round with his “gentlemanly nature and deep belly laugh.” Oscar died of pancreatic cancer and left a deep hole in the sister’s lives but later in the book the actions of the men in town show just how well respected he was.
This book deals sensitively with a number of emotive topics from domestic abuse and depression to grief and loss. It was alternately heart-breaking and heart-warming, Ashley Farley is an amazing writer and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.
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