The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth is a tense and compelling thriller.
I’ll be frank— there are a lot of poorly-written thrillers out in the marketplace. Many that fall under the psychological arena tend to follow the same plot points. And they seem to approach the story with the mindset that the more unrealistic and just flat out bizarre tales—the better. I feel when thrillers are so out there in content, it really takes away from the story.
But Sally Hepworth does something different with her thrillers—she tends to write them in a more contemporary fiction style. While there’s typically a mystery and plenty of creepy scenes, she usually uncovers much more—complicated family dynamics, motherhood, etc. I believe this is why Sally’s stories are so popular—her novels have much more going on than just a bunch of twists (which there are plenty of those too).
I actually liked The Good Sister much more than The Mother-in-Law. In fact, sometimes it didn’t even feel like I was reading a thriller in many ways.
What’s the Story About
The novel follows two fraternal twins in their late 20s—Fern and Rose. Fern is on at the autistic spectrum and has sensory issues and Rose is her protector in many ways. We know that Fern did something very bad when they were children and Fern believes that without Rose, she could do something like that again.
When Rose discovers that she may be unable to have children, Fern decides to get pregnant so she can have her baby for Rose. In Fern’s journey, family secrets and betrayals will be revealed.
Kind of a random synopsis, right? But just go with this story—it’s actually provides much more depth than expected.
We read the story from Fern’s first-person perspective and through Rose’s diary entires. Both versions slowly unfold what happened in their past. You also aren’t sure which one is unreliable (or if they both are).
I thought it was interesting reading Fern’s experiences with sensory issues. You definitely feel for her in many scenes. She has a good job at the library and she prefers her life of order. But when she meets an American man named Rocco (which she nicknames Wally), everything changes for her. Their relationship is actually quite sweet and I had to keep reminding myself that this was a thriller and not a contemporary story.
Rose’s diary entries provide more light on their past, including the relationship with their estranged mother. Some of those scenes are hard to read.
But of course, this is a thriller so there has to be twists! And there are plenty. I will say I completely predicted what the reveal was pretty much from the get-go. I don’t think that took away from the story but I definitely wasn’t shocked when it all came to a head. I think the author is more focused on telling a good tale rather than trying to keep the audience guessing too long.
I do believe the combination of a thriller mixed in with a contemporary story makes this much more stronger than others in the genre.
The Good Sister is a solid story all around and surprisingly, there are some touching scenes. I liked the ending quite a bit too. If you’re looking for a thriller with more depth, this is a good choice. For book clubs, check out my discussion questions here.