The Almost Sisters: A Novel

The Almost Sisters: A Novel

by Joshilyn Jackson


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The Almost Sisters: A Novel by Joshilyn Jackson

With empathy, grace, humor, and piercing insight, the author of gods in Alabama pens a powerful, emotionally resonant novel of the South that confronts the truth about privilege, family, and the distinctions between perception and reality—the stories we tell ourselves about our origins and who we really are.

Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs’ weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.

It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She’s having a baby boy—an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old’s life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel’s marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she’s been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood.

Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother’s affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she’s pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she’s got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie’s been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family’s freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062105721
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/29/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 70,197
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Joshilyn Jackson is the New York Times bestselling author of seven novels, including gods in Alabama and A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages. A former actor, Jackson is also an award-winning audiobook narrator. She lives in Decatur, Georgia, with her husband and their two children.


Powder Springs, Georgia

Place of Birth:

Fort Walton Beach, Florida

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The Almost Sisters 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Once again Joshilyn Jackson has hit a home run! I love all her books and this one did not disappoint. Can't wait for the next one!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. It was different from any book I have read. It is about sisters and mixed race from the south!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I haven't read anything by Joshilyn Jackson that I don't like.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Entertaining intelligent thought provoking
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A beautiful story with rich, full characters. The main character was believable and likable. This story is especially relevant to the cultural landscape of today. Very thought provoking...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book...and honestly...I didn't think I would. I randomly put a hold on the audio version when I should have already been asleep so I was a little surprised when I got the email saying it was ready. I thought...ok, I'll give it a go. There isn't a lot that I would typically read...AND...the author was the narrator. I have a thing about that and there are only a handful that I can bring myself to listen to. This one was great. I overcame my fears about the plot early on and I found myself laughing and smiling because I really thought it was funny, and endearing. It's scary in a way that is very real, dealing with aging and social standards with a healthy dose of racism. I loved it for the way it tackled all of these things and still remained grounded to everyday people while doing it. I'm probably going to go binge read the rest of her works!
Honolulubelle More than 1 year ago
Favorite Quotes: She’d had suitors as a girl, but no one good enough in Ellis Birch’s proud, paternal eyes. He had discouraged them, which was a euphemism. One of the Mack boys had been discouraged all the way to the state line. Martina looked down her nose at me, tilting her head back and flaring her nostrils so wide I could practically see all the way up into the dark cavity where her brains ought to have been. “My daughter took me to see Arsenic and Old Lace over at the Montgomery theater. I know what’s what!” In my darkest hours. Rachel enveloped me in strong, medicinal hugs, firm and sure, like I was a tube of sad toothpaste and she was trying to squeeze every bit of sorrow out of me. In Birchville gossip was called “news,” and having some was social currency. I’d just handed Alston and the Franklins big fat wads of it to spend, and gossip waited for no exhausted dog. Alston picked him up and tucked him under her arm like a hairy clutch purse, then bustled away up the street. My Review: I reveled, cherished, adored, loved, and savored this book from beginning to end. It was keenly insightful, wittily amusing, smartly written, brilliantly detailed, cleverly plotted, and well paced. Joshilyn Jackson certainly knows how to spin a tale and gives new meaning to Southern eccentricity, as all of her characters were fascinating, quirky, and well fleshed out. She apparently has extensive knowledge of old guard Southern small town narrow-mindedness and religious hypocrisy, as her depictions were clever and highly entertaining while also masterful and keenly accurate. I don’t remember seeing her in the tiny inbred pastoral community of my youth, but clearly, she was there, hiding somewhere. The captivating and intriguing storyline contained skillful humor and deft plot twists along with several entertaining and perilous threads, secrets tucked into each chapter, and thoughtful conundrums from the past and present to resolve. I felt a bit forlorn at reaching the end as I could easily keep reading about these enticing and engaging characters well into perpetuity.
Anonymous 7 months ago
Hard time putting it down! I will be purchasing another of her books, read this one it is soooooooooo good!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Must read, very good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Family. What you believe. What you see. Look again!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutely wonderfulstory. I will be purchasing her other novels. So good I told my mom and she purchased it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book very much!
paulalala09 More than 1 year ago
This is a heart wrenching story filled with the love of family and friends that will bring tears to your eyes and unrest to your heart. It is about Birdie, Wattie, Leis and Rachel and the relationships that have ruled or ruined their lives. The scene is modern day Alabama and the sadness that is residual racism flourishing under the town cover. The secret hiding in Birdie's attic brings it all front and center as Leia tries to cope with it and make sense of so many events that shake up her world. The Almost Sisters is well worth your time to read. 
SheTreadsSoftly More than 1 year ago
The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson is a very highly recommended novel about family, aging, privilege, and the South. This incredible novel has it all - memorable, quirky characters, remarkable writing, and an outstanding plot. The Almost Sisters may be my favorite novel by Jackson to date (which is special because I have loved all her novels), and is a contender for my top ten books of the year. Leia Birch Briggs, 38, is a successful comic book artist who was in the bar at a comics convention when she met Batman and fell hard. "Plus, tequila never was the handmaiden of good decisions. I’d asked him up to my room. We’d started kissing in the elevator..." The result is Leia is pregnant with Batman's child. All she remembers is that he is black so her child, a boy she calls Digby, will be biracial. She wants Digby despite the fact that "I’d walked away from every man I might have married. No, I’d run. The playground song in my head went: First comes love, then comes hideous betrayal, then comes endless regret requiring expensive therapy. It was a terrible song. It didn’t even rhyme. But it was mine, and I hadn’t made a family, even though I’d wanted one. I still did." Before she has a chance to break the news to her family, her step-sister Rachel's marriage implodes on the same day her 90 year-old grandmother Birchie makes it known in some very public comments while at church that she is slipping into dementia. Leia ends up taking her 13 year-old niece, Lavender, with her as she heads to Birchie's home where she lives with her life-long friend Wattie in a small Alabama town. Leia is now faced with cleaning out the family home and finding some place safe for Birchie and Wattie to live - and they don't want to leave. She also still needs to tell her family she's expecting. But nothing is as simple as a to-do list and even more surprises and complications await her in Alabama than she could imagine. Jackson always writes funny, quirky, unique characters that are memorable and resonate with you long after the novel is over. The Almost Sisters is no exception. I loved the characters in this novel. I love Leia, Birchie, Wattie, Lavender, Rachel, and Batman. (It helps that we do geek in my home.) I also love how Jackson portrays families here: messy and complicated, but supportive even while shaking their heads at the events that are unfolding and secrets that are revealed. And the humor throughout the novel is integrated perfectly into the characters voices and actions. The the quality of the writing is phenomenal and the pacing is perfect. I was caught up in the narrative from beginning to end and enjoyed every turn and new revelation that came along. Jackson has an understanding, empathetic way of handling some serious issues, including aging grandparents, blended families, contentions between sisters, the existence of privilege, and racism. She does it so gracefully, with humor and insight, that you won't realize at first how skillfully she has covered some serious topics. I agree with the Kirkus review that said The Almost Sisters is "A satisfying, entertaining read from an admired writer who deserves to be a household name." Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.
LeighKramer More than 1 year ago
The Almost Sisters is the third book I’ve read by this author and it is her best work yet. From the first page, I sensed I was reading something special. Every so often I’d look up from the book and marvel over what I beheld. Jackson's writing simply sparkles and I appreciated her ability to delve into complicated issues without losing the narrative thread. I don’t want to say a ton about the plot because the delight of reading this is the way the story unfolds. I will say this: I couldn’t wait to learn the Birch family secrets and see what would happen with Leia’s stepsister, as well as when Leia would share her pregnancy with her family. And of course I was dying to know the identity of Batman, Leia’s one night stand. I wanted to race through the pages as much as I wanted to savor them. That’s the beauty of a Joshilyn Jackson novel. While not the central thrust of the novel, it reads as an ode to nerdiness. Leia is a comic book illustrator and comic lore abounds throughout the story, as well as nods to other parts of nerd culture. I’m not a comic book person but I really liked this part of Leia’s personality and the bond it created with Batman. The Almost Sisters is a timely and important read for anyone who is white. Novels can serve as an entry point for the things we want to learn about or that we're trying to understand. We need to keep learning about and recognizing our attitudes about race and privilege. Joshilyn Jackson has a way of bringing insight and nuance to complex issues and she never sacrifices the integrity of her storytelling. You're reading a great story, first and foremost, but don't be surprised if you find yourself reflecting on your own opinions and history with what happens to her characters. That's a big reason why I recommend her books so often. The dynamics between Birchie, who is white, and her friend-now-caregiver Wattie, who is black, are worth noting. While Wattie's mother was Birchie's housekeeper growing up, the two women grew up together and in their old age, their lives intertwined even further, especially when Birchie's memory first started to slip. They are an enigma in a town that is segregated down to which church you go to. They are a united front. I wish we'd known about Birchie's relationship with other African Americans. Her friendship with Wattie was special but I'm not sure Birchie is more evolved than the other white families in town. Birchville is a town like many others. There's only a couple of overtly racist characters. Most simply don't question "the way things have always been." This novel is a journey of understanding. Leia must confront the racism in her town and in her family in light of her baby. Her son will grow up in a world she doesn’t entirely recognize and she has to grapple with this truth. There were times when I could not believe what she hadn’t realized about her town and the racism her child might face. Yet her experience mirrors the layers of burgeoning understanding many white people experience, myself included. Leia is figuring things out and it is good to see this play out. All along the mystery surrounding her family unspools and leads to a revelation that undoes everything she knew to be true. It is powerful. It is painful. It is real life. This book would be a perfect pick for book clubs or to read with a friend. We need to talk about these things. Highly recommended. Disclosure: I received an ARC from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.
KateUnger More than 1 year ago
The Almost Sisters was so much more than I was expecting. Joshilyn Jackson is known for her Southern women’s fiction. There’s always romance and family drama, but this book had so much more. Let’s start with the main character: Leia Birch Briggs. I loved her! She’s a comic book artist who hosts weekly board game nights and regularly attends comic conventions. Can I be friends with her? Seriously. My husband and I host monthly board game nights, and he just built a gaming table for our living room. Guess what Leia has in her dining room? A gaming table! I couldn’t believe it. I love when characters in books match up so perfectly with the type of person I would actually hang out with. At one of the above mentioned comic cons, Leia drunkenly hooks up with a Batman…a black Batman. And she’s knocked up. She’s afraid to tell her perfect step-sister, Rachel. Only Rachel’s not-so-perfect-after-all marriage (to Leia’s childhood best friend and first sexual partner) is falling apart, and Rachel thrusts her daughter on Leia, and the two head down to Georgia where Leia’s grandmother, Birchie, has just made a scene at church and revealed her dementia. Birchie, and her best friend, Wattie, were so fun. They’re a couple of conniving old ladies who like to shake things up. They grew up together because Wattie’s mother was Birchie’s family’s maid. They split their time between the white church and the black church, even though no one in their small town really approves. Race and racism are major themes in this book as are the importance of family and honesty. There’s a whole lot of drama and humor in this book along with the pack of fantastic characters. I read this book very quickly, and I loved every second of it.
Storytellermary More than 1 year ago
THE ALMOST SISTERS by Joshilyn Jackson Superheroes can appear in the most unlikely disguises, family sticks by you no matter what, and small towns might only appear to be calm. Those are some of the lessons/themes in a book could not stop reading and did not want to end. I want to keep living with the Birches in Birchville, Alabama, another almost sister, working for good and knowing that endings may just be new beginnings. A most satisfying book . . . complex and compelling on many levels. I found many personal connections — I have a friend who is a comic book artist, many friends enjoy cosplay, many are dealing with relatives with dementia, and my favorite niece has moved to a small town. The larger themes of loyalty and betrayal, forgiveness, fierce factions, racism, loving interference, and secrets, so many secrets, are universal and relevant to us all. “I’m not sick. I’m only dying.” As will we all; the beautiful part is to live and love while we can. “I wanted to fall in love, marry a dork like me, and make more dorks. I wanted game nights, summer nerd cations to Ren fairs and Orlando . . .” sounds lovely to me. I truly can’t do justice to this book, five stars are not enough, one has to read it for oneself.
bookchickdi More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed the last two books I read by Joshilyn Jackson- Somebody's Else's Love Story and The Opposite of Everyone. The characters pulled me in right away, and I love the setting of the stories in the South. Jackson's latest novel, The Almost Sisters is also set in the South. Leia wrote a hugely popular comic book, Violence in Violet, a few years ago, a book with a decidedly feminist story. From that, she began a career illustrating other people's stories and became pretty much in demand. At a comic convention, she meets a handsome "Batman" and has a one-night stand. That night results in her pregnancy. At the age of thirty-eight, this is not something Leia expected, and since she doesn't remember Batman's name, she can't even tell him about it. Leia is summoned to her grandmother Birchie's home in small-town Alabama by townspeople concerned about Birchie's outburst at a church fish fry, an outburst that results in the church being turned upside down. At the same time, Leia's perfect stepsister Rachel has just thrown her husband out of their home. Leia is shocked by this, as Rachel appears to have the perfect life. Rachel asks Leia to take her thirteen year-old daughter Lavender with Leia to Alabama while she tries to pick up the pieces. Most of the story takes place in Birchie's small town, as Leia arrives to find her grandmother has a serious illness that effects her mental capacity as well as her body. Birchie's best friend and housemate Wattie has been hiding Birchie's illness from everyone, something that makes Leia very unhappy. Fiction frequently uses secrets as a theme, and Jackson has a lot of them here- Leia hides her pregnancy, Rachel hides her marriage troubles, and Birchie and Wattie have more than a few secrets, including a whopper of a one that threatens to hurt many of them. I love the setting of Birchville, a town founded by Birchie's ancestors. You get a real feeling of place here, and if you close your eyes, you can almost see Birchie's house, the church and the town square. My favorite characters are Birchie and Wattie. I really wanted to know more about their younger days, how they got to be so close in a era when blacks and whites were not supposed to be friends, these two are closer than sisters. I would love a prequel to this story. Fans of comic books (and other nerds as Leia frequently refers to herself) will have an added extra level of enjoyment here. Leia's comic Violence in Violet is dissected here in great detail, something I would have enjoyed more if I was into comic books. And Jackson's trademark Southern humor does shine through in Leia's character. There is a lot here in The Almost Sisters- sisterly relationships, what makes a family, small town life, race relations in the South today and of course, the danger of keeping secrets. I can't say that I liked this one as much as her previous two books, but readers who enjoy a good family story set in the South will enjoy it.
CharlotteLynnsReviews More than 1 year ago
WOW! We start with Leia finding out she got pregnant after one night with Batman. Yeah, Batman. That is just the first part of The Almost Sisters. There are a few different storylines intertwined, yet it all comes together perfectly. Leia returns to Alabama to help her Grandmother, who has been hiding her Alzheimer’s, get her life in order and be sure she is safe. When she arrives at her Grandmother’s house she finds more than what she expected. She finds her grandmother and her best friend have been keeping secrets for years from her. Add to this that her step-sister, Rachel, is having problems with her husband. Oh, and don’t forget she is still pregnant by Batman. I should mention that Batman is black and Leia is white. One of Leia’s fears is raising a mixed race baby in the south. While in this small town she sees how big the racial divide really is and it brings her fear of raising her baby in the south. Joshilyn Jackson is a go-to author for me. With The Almost Sisters I was not disappointed. I cannot wait for more from her.