Lullaby for My Sister by Nancy Barone


Lullaby for My Sister by Nancy Barone
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full length (310 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Peony

When Valentina and Lucy Mancino’s mother died, and their father turned to alcohol to cope, Valentina quickly understood it was up to her to run the household and take care of her little sister. But Valentina was only nine years old. And when their new step-mother moved in, along with her two sons, Val also knew things were about to change for the worse.

Fifteen years later, while Lucy is flailing in life, Val is running a successful career, but she’s also hiding a terrible secret. She soon discovers that her former home is suppressing secrets of its own—many unspeakable truths are dying to be told.

Heartache and hope will keep you turning the pages of Nancy Barone’s Lullaby for My Little Sister. What can only be described as an emotional ride, kept me hooked from start to finish with a plot that extends in the past and present both full of realistic joy and anguish. Nancy is an author with a lot of experience in the romance genre, but with this book tries something new, telling a mystery full of themes of family, love and trauma. The initial promise of a book about the connections between two sisters share goes well beyond this and explores many themes that feel very real and visceral to keep you reading till the end.

Lullaby for My Little Sister is a tear jerker right from the get go. You’re faced with the loss of family, but the well of grief doesn’t end there. Rather than gloss over or focus on one tragedy as the focal point, this story weaves itself around the cascade of other problems one loss can bring. The book is almost entirely internal, but there are actions associated with the emotions, even though most of it is musing from the part of the lead. Perhaps more external narrative could have given the book a better pacing, because it is quite slow to start, but the narrative style isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just prepared for a slow burn.

This book has a very strong family element and a cultural aspect of Italians living in the US. Anyone who’s read a book from this cultural viewpoint may find it familiar, even if it isn’t a culture like their own. The pains taken by the author to incorporate the family culture into the book is extremely helpful in creating a sense of immersion and filling in some of the blanks for how the characters interact with each other. Unfortunately, the other side to the cultural portion of the book is the stereotypes that go along with it. There were many parts where I just felt like I was reading something from a mob story, even if the mafia have no part of the book.

Another neat thing this book does is how the acts the characters are engaging in become allegorical for the story at large. The act of cleaning becomes one of cleaning one’s life and these themes remain constant through the book. By telling the story literally but also figuratively at the same time, the author manages to tell the story in more than one way. This aspect of the writing is very hard to explain but it worked very well and I rather enjoyed it. Perhaps this could be described as one of the strongest hooks the book has.

There are some triggers that you as a reader should be aware of before starting this book. Themes of sexual assault and loss of parents do come up and while I won’t spoil how or for whom, I will say that they become unavoidable in the story at large. If these are the sorts of things that you might struggle with then be aware they’re there. Additionally, child abuse comes up in this book and like the other themes, cannot be skipped. While these themes are treated with the weight and magnitude they deserve, for some they may hit a little too close to home.

Despite all the strong emotional storylines and clever figurative moments this story has, there is one thing that harmed the immersion if just a little. Nothing in this story was particularly out of the realm of reason, but the sheer volume of misunderstandings and shocker twists that occur started to at times feel like a soap opera. There really isn’t anything wrong with soap operas, they are hugely popular and for a good reason, but not every reader is going to find that to their taste. Personally, though not a consumer of soap operas, these instances in the story were little more than a small stumbling block I could easily get over and move beyond. It would be a shame to skip this story over something like that, but at the same time it is good to know it’s there.

Perhaps not everyone should read this book, those that have certain triggers from their own past trauma might want to take a pass and anyone who really isn’t interested in high drama may likewise find this too dense. For me personally this book was one of the most emotional investments I’ve undertaken in a while and it was hard not to appreciate all of the aspects of family, love and overcoming issues that come up in the story. For anyone looking for a book that expertly mixes the good and the bad should probably pick this book up as soon as possible. You won’t be disappointed.

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