All Allie Marshall wants is a fresh start. But when dark secrets refuse to stay buried, will her chance at a new life be shattered forever? Convicted of a crime she didn’t commit, Allie watched a decade of her life vanish – time that can never be recovered. Now, out on parole, Allie is determined to clear her name, rebuild her life, and reconnect with the daughter she barely knows. But Allie’s return home shatters the quaint, coastal community of Brunswick, Georgia. Even her own daughter Caroline, now a teenager, bristles at Allie’s claims of innocence. Refusing defeat, a stronger, smarter Allie launches a battle for the truth, digging deeply into the past even if it threatens her parole status, personal safety, and the already-fragile bond with family. As her commitment to finding the truth intensifies, what Allie ultimately uncovers is far worse than she imagined. Her own sister has been hiding a dark secret—one that holds the key to Allie’s freedom.
Ten years ago, pre-med student Allie was set up to have one great life in front of her. About to embark on a medical career, she also had a beautiful little girl and a perfect loving and supportive boyfriend. Then one night's events had Allie suddenly facing down a murder charge. After sitting in prison for a decade, all the time proclaiming her innocence, Allie is now out on parole and determined to rebuild her life and clear her name of the wrongful accusations.
Easier said than done though, she quickly comes to find out. Everyone in town still questions Allie's innocence, making it near impossible for Allie to find a job. Little hard to turn around your life if you have no income to bankroll the changes! The struggle to start again only strengthens Allie's resolve to get to the bottom of the truth of that fateful night so that she can finally try to put this business behind her once and for all. The truth that starts to surface turns out to be stranger and more dangerous than she could've ever imagined.
Caroline, that pretty little girl is now a hurt and confused teenager, raised by Allie's sister Emma. Caroline barely has any memory of her mother and it doesn't help that her opinions of Allie are influenced by the brainwashing of Emma, who has built up a lifetime of bitterness against her older sister. Allie was always the perfect one, the admirable school career, the kind, helpful, pretty one her parents doted on. Comparatively, second child Emma was treated like a bit of a stick in the mud. It seemed nothing she did was ever quite right, no matter how hard she tried... so she just stopped trying and embraced being the wild child. When Allie is sent to prison, it's a chance for Emma to step up and finally win her parents' approval as the responsible, mature child who wasn't sent to prison. Now that Allie is out, Emma isn't ready to give up the life she's built as Caroline's surrogate mother and the darling child of her parents and she's willing to go to nearly any lengths to hold onto the life she's come to love.
Though the thriller aspect of the plot wasn't quite as strong as I had hoped, there were still enough question marks around the characters to keep me turning pages. I think my main disappointment with the thriller element was that the build up was good and showed potential but there was some dropping the ball when it came to the follow-through. I also felt that sometimes the flashback scenes, mainly the way the reader was only given small snippets at a time, were dragged out throughout the plot a little longer than necessary. It brought down the overall pace of the story a bit. I will say though, I found the ending to be a strong one with a satisfying epilogue. The one thing I would've liked a better conclusion to is what happened with the relationship between Caroline and Russell, since Russell was actually one of my favorite characters in the whole book.
Sister Dear is a strong candidate when choosing potential titles for your next book club round up. It offers topics for meaty discussions such as the treatment of convicted felons after their release, or the glorification of sports players or coaches, even to the point of being willing to overlook highly unethical, even illegal behavior in favor of maintaining fanhood. It also looks at sibling rivalries turned twisted, which is bound to get club members talking!
FTC Disclaimer: In the case of this book, both TNZ Fiction Guild and BookLookBloggers.com kindly provided me with copies of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.