Title: Henry’s Sisters
Author: Cathy Lamb
Release Date: August 1, 2009
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Curled Up with a Good Book
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Isabelle Bonnarito has been scarred by her childhood. Her father left their family when she was just a girl, so her mother had to do her best to raise her, her sisters Cecelia and Janie, and her special needs brother Henry. Her mother resorted to some desperate measures in order to keep her children clothed and fed, and suffered from bouts of depression so severe that Isabelle had to keep the family running while their mother took to her bed for weeks.
Isabelle thinks she has overcome her traumatic childhood, but compensates by sleeping with an indiscriminate number of men. But when her harsh, unrelentingly critical mother discovers she has a heart problem, Isabelle and her sisters are forced to return to their hometown and confront the demons they left behind.
Henry’s Sisters was a beautiful book about the importance of love and family. The Bonnarito clan’s experiences were simply horrible. Every time the reader thinks their past can’t get any worse, something comes to light that changes the reader’s opinion. As a result, all three girls are damaged. Isabelle sleeps with any man who crosses her path, but only once. After her father left, she can’t bring herself to trust a man any more than that. Cecelia eats for comfort, to the point that she is 300 pounds and has medical issues because of her weight. Janie certainly has obsessive-compulsive disorder.
The beauty of Henry’s Sisters, though, comes from Henry himself, a special needs man who loves everyone unconditionally. Isabelle often says that Henry is her one constant in life, the one person who has loved her no matter what. Lamb did an incredible job showing the reader how normal Henry is, but at the same time, how much he loves and gives to others. He was really the bright spot in this book.
Henry’s Sisters is definitely a difficult novel. These children undergo some heartwrenching experiences that leave the reader at a loss for words. Multiple times, I found myself tearing up until the end, when I just let the tears run. Lamb isn’t a manipulative author; the emotions are genuine, but this is a very difficult book. You should be prepared for the difficulties within its pages because they are not easy to read about.
That being said, because of Henry, this book has hope and happiness at his core. Every time the book becomes almost too difficult to bear, it is Henry’s shining face and optimism that bring the novel back to its central tenet, back to what is important: love. It’s an incredible message, and one that Cathy Lamb delivers like an expert.
Though Henry’s Sisters was difficult to read at times, it was absolutely worth it. This is a beautiful novel. The character development in it is incredibly rewarding; at the beginning, Isabelle is a broken woman, though she wouldn’t even admit that to herself. As the novel progresses and she comes to terms with what has happened to her and experiences new atrocities, she makes serious realizations about herself that make her a more complete person by the end of the novel. It can be hard to read, but is heartwarming in the end.