An immensely engaging story

  • Book: California Sister
  • Location: Bergamo, Italy
  • Author: Gloria Mattioni

Review Author: joycey

Location

Content

“I had to rise up, ride this wave on its crest, all the way to shore. All the way to safety.” This is Chiara aka Claire’s realization after months of struggling to motivate her sister Ondina to miraculously break free of the “locked-in syndrome” brought on by an aneurism and return to the world. The metaphor relates to Claire’s love of surfing and is also a central philosophical dilemma beautifully threaded throughout this immensely engaging and at times overwhelming story. Can a “warrior” like Claire, who thrives on tackling life’s challenges and whose only fear is losing her beloved sister, reach into herself deeply enough to find the strength to let her go? Would this be the ultimate failure or something else entirely?

We get to know both sisters intimately, their past exploits and tangled relationships with family and loved ones, so that in spite of their inability to reach across the barrier of Ondina’s comatose state their relationship shines brightly, their love for each other illuminating every page. Claire’s fierceness is echoed by the protagonist of her novels, a detective appropriately named Nails. Her volatile nature both contrasts and complements Ondina’s meditative artistry. The sisters are equally committed to creative expression as a way of life, which makes this work of women’s fiction especially compelling.

The vivid descriptions of both Italy and California, as Claire travels back and forth on her odyssey to help her sister heal, add a 3-dimensional colorful quality to the writing that serves to balance the depressing and at times terrifying realism of the depiction of Ondina’s medical treatment and mistreatment. Just as Claire refuses to turn away from witnessing her sister’s suffering, the reader who fully connects with this book may find reserves of empathy previously unknown….as well as the rewards that follow.

Highly recommended.

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