The Story Sisters

Title: The Story Sisters
Author: Alice Hoffman
Pub Date: 2009
Pages: 325
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

EDIT: I made an error with the names and apologize for the confusionl Annie is the Story sisters' mother; below, I was talking about Claire, not Annie, and made the appropriate changes.

"The Story sisters had isolated themselves from the rest of the world, as though they were mere travelers in the here and now, meant for some other time and place. Such activities caused nonattachment, delusions, disloyalty. The world they livd in should have been enough." (89)

First, how cool is it that the sisters last name is "Story". I had no idea when I picked up this book. I, uh, initially thought it was a book about a bunch of sisters who wrote. Seriously. No clue. I got the book off of bookmooch because I wanted more exposure to Hoffman. I've only read her young adult novella, Green Angel.

This is a disheartening and magical and realistic novel of three sisters: Elv (short for Elizabeth, darling, huh?), Meg, and Claire. One morning while the middle sister, Meg, stays home, Elv (the eldest) and Claire (the baby) go out for a wonder. On this morning, however, the unthinkable occurs. A creepy man nabs Claire. Elv without any hesitation jumps into the car, pushes Claire out, and essentially sacrifices herself to the up and coming abuse. Elv is only eight when this occurs.

The young Claire waits on the corner well into the night when Elv finally shows back up. Elv is only eight and ends up creating a fairy tale world and language (Arnish) as a way of dealing with the emotional strife.

Ya'll this book blew me away. It was *that* good. Elv's life spirals downward as she grows older and ultimately her decisions tear the family apart.

I love that Hoffman used the creation of this make believe world as Elv's defense mechanism. Elv convinces herself that she's really a fairy and one day will return to her world (a backward Changeling tale).

"The Queen had told her that if she faced whatever she feared most, she would win the right to sit on the Arnish throne. Water, sex, death. Elv wrote the words in green ink on the back of a postcard. She folded the card into threes and kept it under her pillowcase." (37)

The Story Sisters is devastating and will most definitely be on my top ten list for the year. There were passages that were difficult to read because they were raw. Elv was a believable character. It was easy to hate so many of the things that she did and yet forgive her because of the abuse from her childhood.

"She never told the truth about anything. Not to her mother, not to people in town, not to her customers, whom she often short-changed, not even to herself. What people called the truth seemed worthless to her; what was it but a furtive, bruised story to convince yourself life was worth living." (66)

And even though Elv causes the grief in the story, it's Claire who irritates me. Through out all of the problems and pain, I couldn't understand why Claire didn't just tell someone what happened. I am sure that she felt her own guilt, knowing that something bad happened to Elv when it was intended for her. I get that. But *still*.

"Do you think your past stays with you forever," Claire asked Meg one day. They were removing the wooden stakes used to tie up the heaviest of the vines. "Do you think you can ever escape it?"

There was a slight drizze and the two Story sisters were wearing raincoats. Their mother was collecting the cabbages that no one liked. She would take them to the town hall, where there was a food pantry for the needy.

Meg shrugged. "I think you are who you are." (81)


  1. I have yet to find an Alice Hoffman book that I love, but this one does sound good, if not a bit traumatic.

  2. Did you mean to say Claire instead of Annie?? Cause I can't figure out where Annie fits in as I read the rest of the post??

    I've heard that Alice Hoffman is one to read, she's on the list of "Alices" I have from Book Lust by Nancy Pearl. That being said, I've also heard her described as 'dark' and dark reading I don't do very often.

    HowEVER, this story...hmmm...might have to take a look.

    Thanks for sharing!! :)


  3. Hoffman is hit or miss for me, though the ones I love I tend to REALLY love. Hopefully that'll be one of them.

  4. "Y'all this book blew me away." Ha! How can I resist that sentence with the "y'all" thrown in.

    Like Ana, I've had one good and one "eh" experience with Hoffman but the good experience was enough to keep me wanting to read more. I haven't heard of this one but will check it out. PS--love "Elv" for a nickname.

  5. I like Alice Hoffman, but haven't gotten to this one yet. Looks like a winner.


Talk to me!