The Secret Sisters Keep by Abby Drake is a fantastic story about a family, the incident that drove them apart and the incident that brings them back together. This story begins with Edward Dalton, or Uncle Edward, who has wandered away, either intentionally or accidentally, from his home at the lake just hours before family members are scheduled to arrive for his 75th birthday party. His family, which consists of 4 adult nieces and their families, hasn’t gotten together in a long time due to a tragic and scandalous incident which claimed the lives of his brother and sister in law, the girl’s parents. This event is Edward’s attempt at bringing the sisters together and hopefully re-uniting them as a family.
Ellie, the oldest sister, has been living in Edward’s house for years and helping to care for him, at least that’s the story that she’s been telling herself for years. The truth is that Ellie has been hiding from the world because the man she loved and married let her down when she needed him the most. Ellie has been emotionally brittle and this weekend party will either make or break her. I was really pleased with what the author did with Ellie’s character, we get to watch her deal with the past, grab the present and finally begin to look to the future. Ms. Drake did an excellent job developing Ellie’s character, I was able to sympathize with her emotions; her discomfort and angst at having to deal with her younger sisters, her sorrow and confusion over her parents death, her anger with her uncle’s behavior and lastly the secrets that she and her sisters have from each other.
Amanda, the second sister, is desperately in need of money and is hoping that she can talk Uncle Edward into giving her a quarter of a million dollars to bail her out of trouble. Amanda is the sister that is the hardest to like and understand in this story. She’s been living in a brownstone on Park Avenue that she’s leveraged to the hilt; she suspects her architect husband is cheating on her with a back waxer and she doesn’t get along with her children. Amanda has been the angry child in the family for a long time and no one has ever really confronted her about her behavior. Ms. Drake did an excellent job with developing Amanda’s character, we get to see the difficult person that she is, get some background on what has made her who she is today and then finally we get to see Amanda face the truth about the changes she will need to make in her life, the forgiveness that she both needs to give and receive and the acknowledgement that her husband is and always has been the right man for her.
Naomi or “Babe” as the family calls her is coming home for the first time in almost 20 years. She too has secrets and decisions to make that will take place over this weekend. Babe must decide what to do about her career, she’s not in demand as much due to no longer being 25, and about her marriage to a has been 80’s action star. A marriage in name only since Wes, her husband, was injured in an action flick and they can’t be physically intimate. As the youngest, Babe decided to deal with her family breaking apart by leaving the area entirely and moving to Hollywood and becoming an actress. Since Uncle Edward was a Broadway producer, the family wasn’t really surprised by a member going to Hollywood, though they were surprised because it was Babe. Babe is also the sister whose personal life was the catalyst to the tragic events that took place and she’s also the sister who gets a chance at a long lost love and has to decide if taking a risk on a love from the past is worth what she’ll have to give up in the present.
Carleen is the “black sheep” of the family, the sister whose actions caused a tragic fire that killed her parents. She was forced to stand trial as a young woman for arson, found not guilty by a jury but found guilty by her family, she was sent away by Uncle Edward so that she could “start over” somewhere else on her own. Having no other choice, Carleen grew up, became a ninth grade algebra teacher, married and has two children of her own. Though she’s afraid to come home to the party, she realized that it was time to tell her sisters the truth about her part in the fire that led to their parent’s death. She’s also decided that it’s time to confront Uncle Edward about the secrets in their family. Ms. Drake did an excellent job with Carleen’s character; I understood her situation, applauded her backbone when she had to confront her sisters and was thrilled with the steps she took to fix some of the issues of the past.
The secondary characters in this story were very well written and enjoyable, from Uncle Edward, a very spirited and funny man, to Amanda’s husband , Jonathan, who is still willing to stand by his wife and Ryan William’s, the real love of Babe’s life . The ending to this story was just perfect and resolved all of the open storylines and exposed all of the secrets that the sisters have been keeping. There is a very positive outlook for the changes that all 4 of these sisters are beginning to undertake as individuals and as a family. I look forward to reading more of Ms. Drake’s work
Sisters should be the best of friends, but . . .
When it comes to family secrets, the four Dalton sisters have had more than their share. Then quirky, spirited Uncle Edward decides to throw a seventy-fifth birthday celebration and wanders off, leaving the women to face their past—and one another.
Ellie–the eldest, tended to Uncle Edward instead of her dreams. Exasperated with his antics, aware that she's not getting any younger, is she finally ready to take off for Egypt?
Amanda–the Park Avenue snob, spent two decades raising three kids and squandering money she didn't have. Now that her husband's found a Brazilian back-waxer to take her place, will she reassess her life?
Babe–the movie-star beauty, fled New York for L.A. When she returns with her has-been actor-husband, will love and lust be reignited for her—with someone else?
Carleen–the middle-class mom, a ninth-grade algebra teacher, quilts cloth pocketbooks for fun. Did she really once have orange hair, bad boyfriends, and an attitude? Will her sisters ever forgive her for their shattered family? Or will she be forced to tell them the truth?
And will these ladies ever be able to confront their long-buried past and act like, well, sisters again?