Thursday, May 14, 2009
Review: The Almost Archer Sisters
The Almost Archer Sisters by Lisa Gabriele
Reasons for reading: saw a good review in the paper; Relative title for What's in a Name?Challenge
Description: "Georgia “Peachy” Archer Laliberte has almost gotten her life under control. Peachy, her husband Beau, and their two rambunctious sons live on the family farm in a small town in Canada, just across the border from the U.S.. Their closest neighbor is Peachy’s draft-dodging hairdresser father, Lou, who lives in a trailer on their land. Although her son Sam has epilepsy, Peachy, Beau, and Lou have worked out a successful system to care for him and maintain as normal a family life as possible, and Peachy’s status as a superhuman caregiver has its own rewards.When her life on the farm isn’t quite enough, Peachy can always live vicariously through her glamorous, New York City–dwelling sister, Beth. Thin, successful, and passionate Beth has clawed her way to the top, stepping on anyone it takes to get there — including, every so often, her younger sister. Still, Peachy and Beth are close, and they support each other through crises of all kinds.They support each other, that is, until Beth decides to sleep with Peachy’s husband Beau — who just happens to be Beth’s ex-boyfriend. Furious, Peachy decides to go to New York City — alone — and leaves Beth home to care for her family. As she spends a terrified, exciting weekend alone in the middle of Beth’s life, Peachy must confront questions of love, loyalty, and family to find her way back home."
First line: "Until she left the farm for good, I never thought much about what made me different from my sister, what set me apart from her beyond our looks, beyond her hair color (unnatural blond) and mine (unremarkable brown), her body type (tall, thin) and mine (neither)."
My thoughts: This book is all about contrasts - glamorpuss/homebody, the one who left/the one who stayed, America/Canada [with an American husband, I noticed these differences particularly], single/married... Beth/Peachy. The characters are definitely not likeable all the time - Beth comes off as mostly a self-centred bitch, Peachy seems to take her husband for granted, and Beau cheats on her with Beth. About the only really "nice" character is Lou and he's almost too nice in his hippish, everyone-get-along, all-you-need-is love way. Peachy claims she's not jealous of Beth, but makes quite a few statements about her life and looks that indicate that she is. And it's easy to see why - Peachy seems almost inert. She got knocked up and therefore married Beau, who was Beth's cast-off. Because of this, she didn't finish her social work degree and she lives in the same house that she's lived in her whole life (along with her father). The only thing that's changed is her two sons, whom she loves but she's also pretty candid that the younger one is becoming a little jerk and Sam the epileptic gets all of her attention that should go to both the little one and her husband.
For all of their differences, Beth and Peachy they're each other's lifeline, even though Peachy has a husband and family of her own, she, as Beau points out, spends more time talking to Beth than to him. Peachy is constantly talking Beth down from failed affairs, crazy travels, and her increasing drinking problem. When Beth sleeps with Beau, Peachy has had it and decides to leave her at the farm while she takes their planned trip to New York. In my favourite part of the book, Peachy hurls a wonderful rant at Beth about all the things she'll be expected to do in Peachy's place - laundry, doctor's appointments, what to do for a seizure, what everyone likes to eat and when, what everyone's schedule is, and all of the other things Peachy has to take care of daily. Though she ends it with "Sounds like my life sucks, doesn't it?" you can tell she's proud of how she keeps her family running and that Beth has no idea what she's in for.
The verdict: This story of two very different sisters is by turns sharp, sad, funny, angry and, finally, hopeful. It's also good for Can-Lit fans who are looking for something lighter. (I don't often find Canadian fiction that isn't 500 pages long and bleak and depressing as all get out - though maybe I just haven't looked in the right places.)