Sleep Sister by Laura Elliot

Trigger warning: Child sexual abuse

I read a lot, and I’ll be honest – I was looking forward to this as a fairly nice, easy, quick read. But it isn’t any of these. It is SO much more! It reminded me of both John Boyne’s The Hearts Invisible Furies and Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit yet with an entirely unique voice. I became completely involved in the lives of these characters – so much so that I miss them now I’ve finished it.

‘Sometimes it’s necessary to carry secrets inside us so that those we love don’t suffer our pain.’

The book is split into four parts, all of which show events from a different character’s perspective and from a different time. This is a book that spans a generation and delves deep into the lives of those involved – it is about, family, lies, shame, power, corruption and love in all its forms. I couldn’t read it too fast – there is too much to soak up. It is NOT an easy read, but oh boy, is it gripping.

At the very start of the story, we learn of the suicide of Sara Wallace, and the rest of the book seeks to explain what exactly led to that event. It is far from simple…

Anaskeagh, Ireland. Meet the Tyrell family through the eyes of 8 year old Beth – the eldest daughter. Barry, the father, is a musician who is desperately trying to support his family by following his passion, much to the disappointment of his wife. Beth is a daddy’s girl and his number one fan. Marjory – genius seamstress – is a cold, harsh wife and mother – at least to Beth. She is much more maternal and nurturing to her younger sister, Sara. Right from the start, we learn that something is not quite right: ‘The monster lived upstairs in the wardrobe…’ Is this the usual flight of fancy of a young girl, or something much more sinister?

The Grant Family. Albert is married to May and they have two sons – Kieran and Conor. Albert isMarjory’s brother and is the most important man in the town. He is well respected – owning both a factory and a furniture shop and later, having a successful career in politics. He helps the Tyrell family out financially, constantly trying to convince Barry to go and work for him so that he can support his family better. Albert’s constant refrain is that, ‘family is everything’ which leads him to make some incredibly hurtful decisions and unfortunately, his power over everyone allows him to see them through.

The O’Donovan Family. Frank works full time and then some, on their farm. Catherine, his wife, works on the farm during the day and at the local hospital at night to make ends meet. Their daughter Jess is Beth’s best friend – a friendship that lasts a lifetime despite their entirely different paths in life. Beth finds peace and happiness at the O’Donovan Farm that she never finds at home. Ultimately, a decision that Beth makes involves the O’Donovan family and links the families together forever.

Oldport, Ireland. The McKeever Family – Barry finds a second chance at happiness after he leaves Marjory and his children and falls in love with Connie. They move in together with her two children – Stewart and Marina – and Beth joins them when she finally has enough and runs away from Marjory’s sharp tongue. Connie and Stewart work at a clothes factory and after a time, Beth joins them there and starts to gain her independence.

The Wallace Family – Della owns and manages Della Designs, a successful clothes factory that employs Connie, Stewart and later, Beth. Her son Peter is known for having, ‘a tongue that would charm snakes from a basket’. They live in a large country house – Havenstone – and both Peter, and Havenstone, become central to the story.

26 years later… and the character’s situations have changed and moved on. Some of them have come together in ways I really hadn’t seen coming. I don’t want to say much more than that and spoil the read but I will say that Beth is now married with children of her own. Sara has a successful career as a photographer and is also married.

This is a true family epic of a read. I loved it and so wish it wasn’t over.

‘There was a time when silence was more important than honesty’.

Sleep Sister by Laura Elliot is only £1.99 on kindle at the moment.

I would like to thank both Net Galley and Bookouture for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.



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