What Happened to My Sister

What Happened to My Sister

by Elizabeth Flock


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345524430
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/07/2012
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 1,259,972
Product dimensions: 5.34(w) x 7.88(h) x 0.67(d)

About the Author

New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Flock is a former journalist who reported for Time and People magazines and worked as an on-air correspondent for CBS. She is the author of several acclaimed novels, including But Inside I’m Screaming and Me & Emma. She lives in New York City.

Read an Excerpt


Carrie Parker

If you’re reading this, I must be dead and maybe you’re going through this notebook hunting for clues. It always bugs me when I’m looking real hard for something and after a long time it turns up right under my nose where it was the whole time, so I’m going to tell you right here in the beginning all I know for certain. It may or may not make sense right now but who knows, maybe it will later on.

The first certain thing I know is that Richard’s not ever gonna hurt Momma again. The second thing is that I had a sister named Emma. Here’s what else I know: we were moving to my grandmother’s house but now we’re not. Momma says in the river of life I’m a brick in her pocket, and I’m not sure what that has to do with her changing her mind, but Momma is most assuredly not driving in the direction of Gammy’s house. So until I figure it all out, the number one most important thing you need to know so you can tell ever-body is that I, Caroline Parker, am not crazy.

I don’t care what anybody says—I’m not. I swear. People think I cain’t hear them say things when I’m in town like shh, shh, shh—there goes that Parker girl bless her crazy little heart but I’m not deaf, y’all. I’m just a kid. I’m not peculiar or crazy as an outhouse rat. And I’m gonna prove it once and for all. You wait and see. They’ll be lining up to say sorry and they’ll ask for a hug or something embarrassing like that but the best part’ll be when ever-body finally admits they’re wrong about me. I’m gonna do ever-thing right from now on. I’m gonna be like the other kids. I’m gonna be the best daughter in the whole wide universe—so good Momma’s not going to believe it. Just you wait and see.



Right now Momma and me are riding in our old beat-up station wagon with all we got to our names stuffed into Hefty sacks in the way back. Momma has an old-fashioned square little bitty suitcase she calls her travel case locked up next to her in the front seat. I never saw it before in my life. Heck, I never knew it existed till we lit out of town. She must have thought I’d go breaking into it if I’d found it back at the house and truth to tell I probably would have because I love little bitty things of any kind. What I dearly love more than anything in the universe is little bitty animals. We don’t have any pets but I’m hoping that’ll change in our new life because I want a dog so bad and I’m thinking if I’m real good and I never say the name Emma and I do ever-thing Momma wants she’ll give in and we’ll get a puppy. I promised Momma she wouldn’t have to do a dang thing because I’d take care of it but every time I bring it up she says I’d probably kill it along with everything else. But I swear I wouldn’t. I’d take perfect care of her. I’d name her Pip. Short for Pipsqueak.

Along with boring stuff like clothes, I own this notebook I like to draw and write in. My favorite thing is making lists. I can make a list out of anything really. You name it and I’ll make a list out of it. It’s something else. That’s what Mr. Wilson our old neighbor says about my list-making abilities. That’s something else, he said when I showed him how I was making a list of his guns and bullets and holsters. But that was before I used his gun to shoot Richard and now I ain’t allowed to mention Mr. Wilson or guns anymore.

What I Own Personally

1.Two pairs of shoes if you count flip-flops, which I do.

2.Une polka-dot dress I hate because it’s a polka-dot dress for goodness’ sake and it’s a dress and no one wears dresses to school if they can help it. I cain’t recall when I ever wore it outside of church, back when we used to go to church.

3.A button-down shirt Momma calls a blouse that I’ve hardly ever worn on account of it being fancy and I haven’t ever done anything even close to fancy because we’re dirt-poor.

4.A book of words with the title Vocabulary 101.

5.Two pairs of shorts and one pair of blue jeans that don’t fit no more.

6.Five old T-shirts from the Goodwill truck that used to come a couple times a year to sell things in the lot out back of Zebulon’s.

I just turned nine. One year from double digits. One more year till I’m a young lady—that’s what my teacher in my old town, Toast, where we lived before moving to Hendersonville with Richard, used to call the older kids in school. The little ones—the single digits—she just called them kids. I wish I could be ten back in Toast just to hear Miss Ueland call me young lady.

My birthday must have slipped Momma’s mind because the first thing she said to me two days ago was “Go on get dressed I need you to run to the post office and get a change of address form.”

I waited a second just in case she remembered what day it was but when she told me to quit lollygagging and move my lazy behind I knew it’d just be another regular day. I walked to town and when I was sure no car was coming in either direction I sang myself the Happy Birthday song real low. I doubled up and sang the “smell like a monkey” version too.

But our plans changed yesterday, after Momma went to use the pay phone in town. When she left the house the plan was to go stay with my momma’s momma, Gammy, but when Momma came back home, all the sudden we weren’t. Just like that. She said she wouldn’t go where she wasn’t wanted. Even though I didn’t say so, I know just what she meant. That’s how come I know the outside of our house better than the inside. With my eyes closed I could find the little hole behind the lichen and vines that grow over the mossy old tree stump out back in the holler. I know which rocks to step on if you want to cross the creek and which ones only look like they’ll hold steady. I could draw from memory the dead tree trunk crossing the path between Mr. Wilson’s and our house. To me it always looked like the thicket’s taking that tree back to where it came from, with moss over most all of it, vines choking it to crumbling in parts, and a big opening where a gnome would live if gnomes were real and lived in piney woods. I liked it better outside anyway. I pretended little bitty forest creatures were watching, looking out for me and Emma. Whoops. I mean, looking out for me. I figured they liked for me to be there because they knew I’d never let anything hurt them, no sirree I wouldn’t and that’s a fact. Whenever I went back inside the house, when the screen door slammed and Momma looked up from whatever she was doing, she’d see it was me and the air would go out of her like a day-old birthday balloon. Then she’d say oh, it’s you and turn back to her chores. I don’t know who else she thought was gonna be coming through our door.

“Trouble,” Emma would say. “Momma looks scared ever-time the door opens because she’s used to Trouble coming through it.”

I’d tell her, “But we come through it all the time and we ain’t Trouble.”

“You and me are small,” Emma’d say, looking up from playing with the dirty old Barbie doll who lost her hair before we found her, “we’re small but as far as Momma’s concerned we’re Trouble.”

That’s Emma for you—always knowing more than me about pretty much ever-thing that matters. If she were here I bet she’d probably even know where Momma and me are moving to. All I know for certain is it’ll be a place we’ll be wanted.

What with us fixing to leave town for good there just wasn’t time for a birthday fuss anyway. I don’t mind. Really I don’t. Emma would have remembered, though. I know, I know—like Momma said, she ain’t real. She was made-up, I’m supposed to say. But if she’d been real—if I’d really had a sister named Emma—I bet she’d have made me a real nice daisy-chain necklace with White Rain hair spray all over it so it’d last forever. Hair spray makes things last to infinity, just so you know. I’m not kidding.

We’re starting fresh. That’s what Momma says. To get ready for our drive Momma even cleaned out the crumbs, empty RC Cola cans, and chew-tobacco tins left over from Richard so the inside of the car would look spiffy. When she’s in a good mood Momma says words like that. Spiffy. Or Jeez Louise. Jiminy Cricket. And when something surprises her, she says well I’ll be. I helped her get the old car ready and when I opened the ashtray up front and asked what all I should do with the cigarette butts crammed in on top of one another she said well I’ll be, that sure is one full ashtray in need of emptying all right. Once I even heard her say jeepers. That was when there was a long line of ants marching into our kitchen from outside. Momma’s mostly been in a good mood getting ready to start fresh. That’s also on account of her feeling loads better, I bet. Today Momma’s neck bruise is about as wide as the rope Mr. Wilson tied his dog Brownie to the tree with. It’s been fading pretty slow but at least it’s thinner now. Last week it was wide as a hand, the exact shape of Richard’s hand. In back, where his fingers dug in good and hard, it’s red mixed with black but the blue is turning the same yellow ringing the mark on her left cheek. When a bruise gets yellow that’s good news. It means your skin’s trying to be normal again.

Momma hates it when I watch her closely. She says I been doing it all my life but I’m good at pretending I don’t do it no more because I once overheard her telling Richard I study her like I was gonna be quizzed. She said to him it makes my skin crawl, her looking at me like that. So ever since I make myself think about other things when I’m around her so I won’t make her skin crawl. That’s where my vocabulary book comes in handy. I found that the best way to memorize a new word is to squeeze your eyes closed and picture it being spelled out on a chalkboard. Now, if Momma looks like I’m making her skin crawl I shut my eyes and pretend I’m working on vocabulary. It’s worked real good so far because I usually end up leafing through the book (to make it look real) and landing on words I really truly do want to learn. Peculiar. Plethora. My mind wanders real easy, though, so before long I find myself wondering if Momma smiled much when she was a kid. Penultimate. I wonder if she knew how to dance. If she liked candy. Palatial. Did she love my real daddy when they got married? Puny. Did he carry her in through the front door after their wedding? Were they happy when they found out they were gonna have me? Plebeian. Does she know who killed my daddy? Why’d she have to go and marry Richard? I watch her close in case any of it comes out and if it does I write about it so I won’t forget. You never know: she might do or say something that will be a clue about her life. I’ve gotten good at watching from the corner of my eye so it looks like I’m staring straight ahead but I’m really not. Like right now, for instance. Right now it’s easy because Momma’s got to keep her eyes fixed on the road to starting fresh.

But to start fresh we’ve first got to pass through Hendersonville to get to the interstate.

People I See on Our Way out of Town for Good

1.Mr. Zebulon is standing with his arms crossed in front of the hardware store. I looked straight at him and he looked away.

2.Miss Lettie who cuts ladies’ hair in her kitchen is about to get in her car when she sees us and freezes, still holding her key out, like the game Red Light, Green Light.

3.Mr. Willie Harding from the lumber mill watches our car closely then spits chew tobacco on the ground, showing off he can make a big gob of spit, I guess.

Not a one of them waves goodbye. I guess it figures. Ever-one stopped smiling at me after I went and killed Richard and I cain’t blame them no sirree—who smiles at a murderer? That’s what they call me behind my back. Murderer. They whisper the word but it still reaches my hearing and part of me thinks they know it. Psycho murderer. Now, as we’re driving down Main Street this one last time, they stand there blinking at us, watching our car move along like we’re in a slow-motion movie.

I should’ve brushed my hair. Momma calls it a rat’s nest. I close my eyes and make believe I have silky long pretty hair and we’re in a parade like they have on Fourth of July and I’m in a dress that has a bow and sparkles and I’m sitting high up on a chair tied good and tight in the back of a shiny red pickup truck and there’s tons of people from all over waving little flags, waiting to get a look at me and when our truck comes in sight ever-body cheers and claps because I just won a contest that makes me Miss Hendersonville, Queen of North Carolina.

So even though when I open my eyes and I see that I’m not in a parade, I got a rat’s nest in my hair, and not a one person’s cheering or clapping in real life, I smile and wave anyway. They’ll remember me all right: to them I’ll always be the child who shot her stepdaddy and smiled good and wide about it.

Momma says there’s nothing but cold stares and loose lips in Hendersonville. I’m writing down what it’s like there in case I read this when I’m in an old folks’ home and I cain’t remember anything about anything. Maybe my grandkids’ll ask me about it and I don’t want to be the kind of granny who cain’t answer even easy questions like What was Hendersonville like? so I’m making a record of it.

In Hendersonville they don’t honk at you but for waving. A little toot on the horn and your name’s hollered out like you been lost to the world even if you just saw the person five minutes before

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Haunting, harrowing, and exquisitely told, Flock's brilliant, bold novel is all about imagination, grief, and one stunning young narrator's struggle to transcend an unimaginable past in order to carve out a future. Absolutely unforgettable." —-Caroline Leavitt, author of Pictures of You

Reading Group Guide

1. The mother-daughter relationship is an important theme in this novel. What lessons can be learned from Libby and Carrie, and from Honor and Cricket?

2. Why do you think Elizabeth Flock chose to narrate the story from Carrie’s and Honor’s points of view? How would the novel differ if it were told through the eyes of Cricket? Of Ruth?

3. Honor’s relationship with Cricket is very different from Eddie’s relationship with Cricket. Do you think that father-daughter relationships are inherently different from mother-daughter relationships? If yes, how so?

4. What are the characteristics of a strong mother-daughter relationship? Do you think that Honor and Cricket have a strong relationship? What in their relationship works? In what ways do you think Honor approaches motherhood differently than Ruth does?

5. Discuss Carrie’s relationship with Cricket. How are the two girls alike? How are they different?

6. The death of a child has a devastating impact on parents, and the death of Caroline was one of the main reasons that Eddie and Honor separated. Do you think Eddie and Honor would have gotten back together if Carrie hadn’t come into their lives?

7. Libby seems to put all of her needs before Carrie’s. Do you think that she was always like this? Or was there a time when she was good to Carrie? Is Libby’s act of confession at the end a sacrifice for her daughter, or is it a selfish act?

8. Carrie’s flashbacks hint at what really happened to Emma. At any point before the ending, did you guess the truth? What surprised you most?

9. Ruth kept alive the dream that she was related to Charlie Chaplin for many years. Is her behavior in any way similar to Carrie keeping alive the dream that her mother cared about her? And that her “good” behavior could influence her mother’s moods? Have you ever wanted something so much that you held out false hope? What are the benefits or consequences of fooling ourselves?

10. After losing her first child, Honor has a desperate need to keep control in her life. How does Carrie ease Honor’s need for control?

11. Can you imagine living in a world like Carrie’s? Do you think that you would be able to be as resourceful and optimistic as she?

12. In this book, Mr. Burdock is the only positive male figure in Carrie’s life. Do you think that he should have called Child Protective Services when he saw that Libby wasn’t really looking after Carrie? How do you define the line between minding your own business and stepping in to help someone?

13. Do you feel differently about Mr. Burdock’s inaction versus the Dressers’ overreaction? If Honor and Eddie hadn’t been wrongly accused of child abuse, do you think that they would have been quicker to intervene in Carrie’s situation? Or do you think that Honor made the right decision by feeding and helping Carrie as much as she did?

14. Did Carrie’s unfamiliarity with modern technology make you think about how much of the way we live our lives has changed over the past few years? How would this story be different if it was set in a time without the Internet? Do you think that Carrie would ever have learned the truth about her family?

15. Elizabeth Flock extensively researched child psychology and trauma in order to portray Carrie in a realistic way. Though Carrie is never officially diagnosed or labeled with a psychological condition, how did you interpret her character? Why do you think the author refrained from labeling her in the novel?

Customer Reviews

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What Happened to My Sister: A Novel 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First learned about this book's release date seven months ago, and I have been patiently waiting to read it! Me and Emma was a terrific, yet painful, emotional story. This sequel did not disappoint.....could not put it down!! Truly worth the wait!
Seaside_Book_Nook More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book. I have to admit, I struggled with the first 40 pages and after that....I couldn't put it down. Carrie just pulled me in the story so deeply. I couldn't let go of her. I really wanted to dislike Libby, but I think she just needed help and never received it. When Carrie meets the Chaplins...oh my heart just couldn't believe it. I loved how they took her in and all the "first/new" things Carrie experiences. SPOILER ALERT: Most of all, I loved how they all save each other. What Happened to my Sister really moved me and is one of those books that will just stay with me (in a good way) for a very long time. Lets not forget the Chaplin family. I liked how we learn about the Chaplin family from different narrators. I made some terrible assumptions, which didn't pan out in the book. I totally love what unravels and should be a lesson to us all, not to jump to conclusions. What Happened to my Sister is a really good read and I recommend that you purchase it today
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dragged in the beginning but the ending was great
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was so surprised at the end of the first book! This book helps explain more about what happened to Emma and how it ends for Caroline. It's a tough read on child abuse and how children who grow up knowing nothing else believe their parents and themselves to be. There was only one unexplainable part that tells about how a family with a daughter named Caroline but who died could possibly look so inexplicably like the Caroline of our story. It's a good read but Id read the first book first to make it more sensible. I highly recommend it.
arlenadean on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Author: Elizabeth FlockPublished By: Random House Publishing GroupAge Recommended 16Reviewer: Arlena DeanRating: 5Blog For: GMTAReview:"What Happened to My Sister: A Novel" by Elizabeth Flock was a follow up from Ms. Flock first book 'Me & Emma'... which was also a good dialogue and a very interesting read. Be ready for many twist and turns because this is what you will get from "What Happened to My Sister." The reading in a adult and child's voice was really a good affect on the read. From Toast, North Carolina...to Hendersonville, North Carolina...then finally to Hartsville, North Carolina. Carrie(a young neglected and abused girl) and her mother were making a new start. This is where Carrie meets a good friend named Cricket who has lost a sister too. Now Carrie and Cricket are inseparable. Carrie is now thinking less of her sister, Emma. What will come of these two nine year old girls? "When these two meet, their world's expand till it's bursting, changing who they are, and how they see the world they exist in." This is simply beautiful story. Crickets' mom...Honor Chaplin Ford is "a 30-plus female who has suffered the loss of her daughter, her job and her marriage. Their lives are brought together on the 3rd anniversary of Honor's daughter' death. Thus, begins the healing and salvation they both need." This is the time that I will say that you must pick up this wonderful read..."What Happened to My Sister" to find out just what the big secret is and seeing this process of healing in that questions will be answered and the end will all be well for Carrie.The characters were simply off the chart...from Carrie(Caroline), (her mom), Richard, Cricket, Mrs.Honor Chaplin Ford, Eddie, Misty Rae, Janey, Mr. & Mrs. Hap Burdock, Hunter, Lucy, Uncle Charles, to Mr. Wilson and I am sure I have left someone out...so you will have to pick up this excellent read and find out. Also in this read find out how to cure hiccups...with "Levon Hiccups Remedy." If you are in for a good fiction read you have come to the right place...for a very interesting read and Yes I would recommend "What Happened to My Sister: A Novel" as a excellent read.
mandolin on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This is a sequel to Me and Emma, and I highly suggest reading that book before starting this one. Without reading it first, this novel won't make a lot of sense.I really enjoy Elizabeth Flock's writing style and the gritty characters she creates. I was excited to visit with Carrie again in this novel, and we meet some new characters who aren't quite as interesting but give Carrie a new perspective on the world.Carrie did not have an easy life when we first met her in Me and Emma, and things have not improved for her in this novel. At times I became quite heartsick, thinking about all of the real Carries, out there living this way. While I gave Me and Emma 5 stars (and stand by that rating), What Happened to my Sister paled in comparison. It didn't have the shock factor that made Me and Emma so powerful, and the ending of Sister is a little too fairy-tale for me to consider it realistic. It was still a great book that I could not put down, and for that reason alone I would recommend giving it a read.
indygo88 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I didn't realize until reading a little blurb in the front of the book that this was a continuation of sorts of Flock's previous novel, "Emma and Me" , which I hadn't yet read, but I did have on my bookshelf. So I pulled that one from the shelf, read it, then delved into this one. While this book could be a stand-alone novel, I would highly recommend reading "Emma and Me" first. It will give you a lot of background & definitely add more to the story.So having read both back-to-back, I'd have to say I enjoyed this second novel more than the first. I won't go into plot details because many other reviewers have done so. But in this book, Carrie begins to put together some pieces of her past while her mother, in the meantime, further continues to alienate & abuse her. However, this time they find themselves in a larger-populated area and Carrie makes a new friend, Cricket.I liked the flow of this book and how things gradually came together, up until the end. At that point, things started happening quickly, and it all felt entirely too rushed. I think the last 2-3 chapters could've been expanded into 4 or 5 chapters to allow the reader to really appreciate how things were being resolved. Instead, I was left with a feeling of needing a 3rd book to really justify what I'd read.
casmith4 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I really enjoyed this book. The main character has such strength and unconditional love and all she wants is to be loved back. My heart broke for her every time her mother rejected her. I did not read the prequel, but now I need to so I can find out how this little girl survived such horrific abuse.
bytheseabchcmbr on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Elizabeth Flock has written another great story. It is a tragic story of childhood. If you read Me and Emma, then it is a continuation that fills in the blanks. If it is your first book by Flock the story is well told, and I would recommend that you read the other also.Carrie Parker, has loved her alcoholic mother so much that she has tried her best to leave Emma behind and start over. To please her mother, who has mentally and physically abused her, Emma never gives up hope nor does she ever tell anyone how dire her life is.I do hope that Elizabeth Flocks continues witting for years, I am excited to see what is next.
shannon4462 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I loved this book! The middle dragged some and I got bored which is why i gave it a 4 and not a 5 but I loved the ending... told in true Elizabeth Flock fashion with lots of twists and turns. Glad this particular story came out and was uncovered and told. When I share it with the family I think they too will enjoy it.
WKinsey on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I really enjoyed What Happeened to My sister. It started from page one.Ii. grabs your attention and keeps it til the book is done. Ms. flocks characters are so vivid they jump from the page. You find yourself wondering what will happen to Carrie next. I found myself up til the wee hours of the morning finishing this book I just and to know what happened to Carrie ans Emma!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Make aure u read me and emma first then this one such amazing books and sad that this happens more than we realize
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this sequel to "Me & Emma". I wish there was a 3rd book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a little bit outstanding
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book caught my attention from the beginning, I couldn't put it down!  My heart ached for Carrie, I cried and in the end felt so much happiness for little Carrie!  I will definitely be waiting for Elizabeth Flock's next book in the Trilogy!  I highly recommend this book...our Robinswood Book Club skyped with Ms Flock, she is fun & intelligent !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
These two books were very good but very sad and heartbreaking.
Two2dogs More than 1 year ago
HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK This is a sad story, my heart broke for Carrie, how can anybody be so cruel to their own child! Loved Honor and her Mom, the end was really unexpected, brought happy tears to my eyes. This book will stay in my mind for a long long time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book. Very sad at some points but you won't be able to put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A large nest on a cliff
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