The Silent Sister

The Silent Sister

by Diane Chamberlain


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"Chamberlain's powerful story is a page-turner to the very end." -Library Journal

Riley MacPherson has spent her entire life believing that her older sister Lisa committed suicide as a teenager. It was a belief that helped shape her own childhood and that of her brother. It shaped her view of her family and their dynamics. It influenced her entire life. Now, more than twenty years later, her father has passed away and she's in New Bern, North Carolina, cleaning out his house when she finds evidence that what she has always believed is not the truth. Lisa is alive. Alive and living under a new identity. But why, exactly, was she on the run all those years ago? What secrets are being kept now, and what will happen if those secrets are revealed? As Riley works to uncover the truth, her discoveries will put into question everything she thought she knew about her family. Riley must decide what the past means for her present, and what she will do with her newfound reality. Told with Diane Chamberlain's powerful prose and illumination into the human heart and soul, The Silent Sister is an evocative novel of love, loss, and the bonds among siblings.

"Enthralling and gripping...Chamberlain has a gift for telling stories about families whose good intentions go awry in difficult circumstances. Her characters are always portrayed with an understanding that sometimes life's most tragic mistakes require heroic strength to survive." -Book Reporter

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250074355
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 10/06/2015
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 41,560
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

DIANE CHAMBERLAIN is the international bestselling author of twenty-three novels. She lives in North Carolina with her partner, photographer John Pagliuca, and her shelties, Keeper and Cole.

Read an Excerpt

JUNE 2013



I’d never expected to lose nearly everyone I loved by the time I was twenty-five.

I felt the grief rise again as I parked in front of the small, nondescript post office in Pollocksville. The three-hour drive from my apartment in Durham had seemed more like six as I made a mental list of all the things I needed to do once I reached New Bern, and that list segued into thinking of how alone I felt. But I didn’t have time to dwell on my sadness.

The first thing I had to do was stop at this post office, ten miles outside of New Bern. I’d get that out of the way and cross one thing off my list. Digging the flimsy white postcard from my purse, I went inside the building. I was the only customer, and my tennis shoes squeaked on the floor as I walked up to the counter where a clerk waited for me. With her dark skin and perfect cornrows, she reminded me of my friend Sherise, so I liked her instantly.

“How can I help you?” she asked.

I handed her the postcard. “I’m confused about this card,” I said. “My father died a month ago. I’ve been getting his mail at my address in Durham and this card came and—”

“We send these out when someone hasn’t paid their bill for their post office box,” she said, looking at the card. “It’s a warning. They don’t pay it in two months, we close the box and change the lock.”

“Well, I understand that, but see”—I turned the card over—“this isn’t my father’s name. I don’t know who Fred Marcus is. My father was Frank MacPherson, so I think this came to me by mistake. I don’t even think my father had a post office box. I don’t know why he would. Especially not in Pollocksville when he lives—lived—in New Bern.” It would take me a long time to learn to speak about my father in the past tense.

“Let me check.” She disappeared into the rear of the building and came back a moment later holding a thin purple envelope and a white index-type card. “This is the only thing in the box,” she said, handing the envelope to me. “Addressed to Fred Marcus. I checked the records and the box is assigned to that name at this street address.” She held the index card out to me. The signature did look like my father’s handwriting, but his handwriting was hardly unique. And besides, it wasn’t his name.

“That’s the right street address, but whoever this guy is, he must have written his address down wrong,” I said, slipping the purple envelope into my purse.

“You want me to close the box or you want to pay to keep it open?” the clerk asked.

“I don’t feel like it’s mine to close, but I’m not going to pay for it, so…” I shrugged.

“I’ll close it, then,” she said.

“All right.” I was glad she’d made the decision for me. I smiled. “I hope Fred Marcus doesn’t mind, whoever he is.” I turned toward the door.

“Sorry about your daddy,” she said.

“Thanks,” I said over my shoulder, and my eyes stung by the time I got to my car.

*   *   *

Driving into New Bern, I passed through the historic district. Old houses were packed close together on the tree-lined streets and gigantic painted bears, the town’s iconic symbol, stood here and there among the shops. A pair of bicycle cops pedaled down the street in front of me, lightening my mood ever so slightly. Although I hadn’t lived in New Bern since I went away to college, it still had a hometown pull on me. It was such a unique little place.

I turned onto Craven Street and pulled into our driveway. Daddy’s car was in the garage. I could see its roof through the glass windows—one of them broken—of the garage door. I hadn’t thought about his car. Was it better to sell it or donate it? I had an appointment with his attorney in the morning and I’d add that question to my ever-growing list. The car should really go to my brother, Danny, to replace his ancient junker, but I had the feeling he’d turn it down.

My old house was a two-story pastel yellow Victorian in need of fresh paint, with a broad front porch adorned with delicate white railings and pillars. It was the only house I could remember living in, and I loved it. Once I sold it, I’d have no reason to come to New Bern again. I’d taken those visits home to see my father for granted. After Daddy’s sudden death, I came back for two days to arrange for his cremation and attend to other details that were now a blur in my memory. Had he wanted to be cremated? We’d never talked about that sort of thing and I’d been in such a state of shock and confusion that I couldn’t think straight. Bryan had been with me then, a calming, loving presence. He’d pointed out that my mother’d been cremated, so that would most likely be my father’s wish as well. I hoped he was right.

Sitting in my car in the driveway, I wondered if I’d been too hasty in ending it with Bryan. I could have used his support right now. With Daddy gone and Sherise doing mission work in Haiti for the summer, the timing couldn’t have been worse. There was no good time, though, for ending a two-year-old relationship.

The loneliness weighed on my shoulders as I got out of my car and looked up at the house. My plan had been to take two weeks to clean it out and then put it—and the nearby RV park my father owned—on the market. Suddenly, as I looked at all the windows and remembered how many things were in need of repair and how little my father liked to throw things away, I knew my time frame was unrealistic. Daddy hadn’t been a hoarder, exactly, but he was a collector. He had cases full of vintage lighters and pipes and old musical instruments, among zillions of other things I would have to get rid of. Bryan said our house was more like a dusty old museum than a home, and he’d been right. I tried not to panic as I pulled my duffel bag from the backseat of my car. I had no one waiting for me in Durham and the summer off. I could take as much time as I needed to get the house ready to sell. I wondered if there was any chance of getting Danny to help me.

I climbed the broad front steps to the porch and unlocked the door. It squeaked open with a sound as familiar to me as my father’s voice. I’d pulled the living room shades before I’d left back in May and I could barely see across the living room to the kitchen beyond. I breathed in the hot musty smell of a house closed up too long as I raised the shades to let in the midday light. Turning the thermostat to seventy-two, I heard the welcome sound of the old air conditioner kicking to life. Then I stood in the middle of the room, hands on my hips, as I examined the space from the perspective of someone tasked with cleaning it out.

Daddy had used the spacious living room as something of an office, even though he had a good-sized office upstairs as well. He loved desks and cubbies and display cases. The desk in the living room was a beautiful old rolltop. Against the far wall, custom-built shelves surrounding the door to the kitchen held his classical music collection, nearly all of it vinyl, and a turntable sat in a special cabinet he’d had built into the wall. On the north side of the room, a wide glass-fronted display case contained his pipe collection. The room always had a faint smell of tobacco to me, even though he’d told me that was my imagination. Against the opposite wall, there was a couch at least as old as I was along with an upholstered armchair. The rest of the space was taken up by the baby grand piano I’d never learned to play. Danny and I had both taken lessons, but neither of us had any interest and our parents let us quit. People would say, They’re Lisa’s siblings. Surely they have talent. Why don’t you push them? But they never did and I was grateful.

Walking into the dining room, I was struck by how neat and orderly it appeared to be compared to the rest of the house. My father had no need for that room and I was sure he rarely set foot in it. The dining room had been my mother’s territory. The wide curio cabinet was full of china and vases and cut-glass bowls that had been handed down through her family for generations. Things she’d treasured that I was going to have to figure out how to get rid of. I ran my fingers over the dusty sideboard. Everywhere I turned in the house, I’d be confronted by memories I would need to dismantle.

I carried my duffel bag upstairs, where a wide hallway opened to four rooms. The first was my father’s bedroom with its quilt-covered queen-sized bed. The second room had been Danny’s, and although he hadn’t slept in our house since leaving at eighteen—escaping, he would call it—it would always be “Danny’s room” to me. The third room was mine, though in the years since I’d lived in the house, the room had developed an austere air about it. I’d cleaned out my personal possessions bit by bit after college. The memorabilia from my high school and college years—pictures of old boyfriends, yearbooks, CDs, that sort of thing—were in a box in the storage unit of my Durham apartment waiting for the day I got around to sorting through them.

I dropped my duffel bag on my bed, then walked into the fourth room—my father’s office. Daddy’s bulky old computer monitor rested on a small desk by the window, and glass-fronted curio cabinets filled with Zippo lighters and antique compasses lined two of the walls. My grandfather had been a collector, too, so Daddy’d inherited many of the items, then added to them by searching through Craigslist and eBay and flea markets. The collections had been his obsession. I knew the sliding glass doors to the cabinets were locked and hoped I’d be able to find where my father had squirreled away the keys.

Propped against the fourth wall of the room were five violin cases. Daddy hadn’t played, but he’d collected stringed instruments for as long as I could remember. One of the cases had an ID tag hanging from the handle, and I knelt next to it, lifting the tag in my hand. It had been a long time since I’d looked at that tag, but I knew what was on it: a drawing of a violet on one side and on the other side, my sister’s name—Lisa MacPherson—and our old Alexandria, Virginia, address. Lisa had never lived in this house.

*   *   *

My mother died shortly after I graduated from high school, so although I would never stop missing her, I was used to her being gone. It was strange to be in the house without Daddy, though. As I put my clothes in my dresser, I kept expecting him to walk into the room and I had trouble accepting the fact that it was impossible. I missed our weekly phone calls and knowing he was only a few hours away. He’d been so easy to talk to and I’d always felt his unconditional love. It was a terrible feeling to know that there wasn’t a soul in the world now who loved me that deeply.

He’d been a quiet man. Maybe one of the quietest people to ever walk the earth. He questioned rather than told. He’d ask me all about my own life, but rarely shared anything about his own. As a middle school counselor, I was the one always asking the questions and I’d enjoyed being asked for a change, knowing that the man doing the asking cared deeply about my answers. He was a loner, though. He’d died on the floor of the Food Lion after a massive heart attack. He’d been alone and that bothered me more than anything.

Bryan had suggested I have a memorial service for him, but I wouldn’t have known who to invite. If he had any friends, I didn’t know about them. Unlike most people in New Bern, my father hadn’t belonged to a church or any community organization, and I was certain my brother wouldn’t show up at a service for him. His relationship with our father had been very different from mine. I hadn’t even been able to find Danny when I got to New Bern after Daddy’s death. His cop friend Harry Washington told me he’d gone to Danny’s trailer to give him the news, and I guess Danny just took off. He’d left his car parked next to the trailer, and Bryan and I hiked through the forest looking for him, but Danny knew those woods better than anyone. He had his hiding places. Now, though, he had no idea I was in town, so this time I’d surprise him. I’d plead with him to help me with the house. I knew better than to hope he’d say yes.

Copyright © 2014 by Diane Chamberlain

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The Silent Sister 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 91 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've never heard of this author, which is suprising to me since I've learned what a great writer she is. Highly recommend this book and will be reading her others.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! Loved it! A book has to grab my attention from the start, and this book did that! I had a really hard time putting it down. Loved it!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't usually write reviews but I felt this book definitely deserved it. The plot keeps you in suspense throughout and the writing and character development are just amazing. I highly recommend it. you won't be able to put it down. I know I didn't.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent love loved it.I would recommand everyone to read this book Diane chamberlain is a great writer This is her third book I have read. Necessary lies is the next book I am going to read. Her books are quick and also page turners. You won't be sorry if u read her books. For sure
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was an excellent book.Easy reading and captivating. Hard to stop reading
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book grabbed my interest right from the beginning and turned out to be a real page turner! I couldn't put it down and had to see how all was resolved.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The plot thickens! The mystery build, and then the ending sort of fizzled. It was lime the aithor had so many great ideas amd was unable to wrap them all up. Someone likened this to a jodi picoult but I think not! Good but not terrific
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can't believe this was my 1st book by Diane Chamberlain. I loved the character of Riley. Once I started I couldn't put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it!!!!! As usual
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Would recommend highly. Did not want the Story to end!!!!
sherri78 More than 1 year ago
I am almost done with this book. I can not seem to put it down. So many unexpected twists and turns. I have not read a Diane Chamberlain book I did not like.
LetsBookIt More than 1 year ago
There are so many good things about this book that I hardly know where to start. - the writing: Diane Chamberlain is a master. The writing is clear and flows beautifully. It is the kind of writing that draws you in and makes you forget you are reading. The reader is just taken along on the ride that is the story. - the characters: The first impression of each character gives us a hint of who they are, or maybe not. Then as the reader is drawn in, layers begin to emerge in each character's personality. These are definitely NOT two dimensional characters. - the story: How well do you know your parents? Your family history? There is so much that Riley believes is true or that she has experienced that is brought into question as she cleans out her childhood home after her father's death. She will discover truths about herself and her family that will bring into question her whole sense of self. There are just enough twists to keep it interesting without becoming so unreal as to lose the faith of the reader. All in all, just an excellent book.
CharlotteLynnsReviews More than 1 year ago
This is going to be a hard review to right, only because I don’t want to give away everything yet I want to make sure that everyone who reads my review purchases this book.    This is the one book I would recommend everyone read, the book of my year.   The Silent Sister is a mystery story, but it is a strong heart tugging story.   Told from the youngest child in the MacPherson family point of view, this story will show how everything you ever thought to be true could be wrong.  Riley was only two when when Lisa committed suicide.   She didn’t even remember her sister.   What she does know is that it tore her whole family apart.   I love that Riley follows her heart, even when she is afraid of where it is heading.   She learns more than she ever wanted to know, yet manages to stay strong and follow the leads wherever they will leave.   Diane Chamberlain’s amazing writing has left me wanting more.   I know that she is an author that I will never hesitate to read.   This is my first book by her and she has proven herself without a doubt to be an author I will read more of. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't put it down. Great author!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book keep me guessing and I like that about a book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good story about family, love, and tough choices.
TeriS1 More than 1 year ago
This book has twists that keep you turning the pages as you learn of secrets that had been kept for years and secrets that only a few knew about. It makes you wonder how could anyone keep a secret like that and live their entire life worrying that the secret might accidentally be revealed? The characters were well developed, and though the title character was very likeable, others were not but they carried the storyline and its suspense. I did guess some of the secrets but I was still very interested in reading the entire story to find out if I was right and how it unfolded. An intriguing read filled with riveting incidents that were divulged little by little. This is the first book I've read by Diane Chamberlain and I look forward to reading more!
MJFOX2 More than 1 year ago
Good story. Some characters weren't really developed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was not overly impressed with the book. A little drawn out at times. Predictable ending.
1108LAD More than 1 year ago
This book was nicely written and held your attention for the most part. There were some interesting plot lines and characters although I felt it was predictable in many respects. The characters too were somewhat two dimensional - standard & typical - showed little depth.
tillieny More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed the book. Lots of twists and turns and unexpecteds. Great read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm quickly becoming a Diane Chamberlain fan. This book was an easy read with unexpected twists.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
as usual one of her best!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You will not want to put it down. Perfect number of characters. Great read.
Grandma_Myrna More than 1 year ago
I love the way Diane Chamberlain writes. I could not put the book down. It kept you interested from page one to the end.I recommended this book to all my friends and family.