Publisher/Date: iUniverse, Sept. 2005
Genre(s): Romance, Coming Out
When your head is torn between your sexuality and the expectations your parents, where does that leave your heart? That is the struggle starkly captured in S. Stephens’ debut novel, AM I MY SISTER’S KEEPER? Stephens brings the protagonist Elise James to life, along with her grueling inner struggle to both stay true to herself while pleasing her family.
Elise has acknowledged her attraction to women since she was 15 years old. With that knowledge, she delved into the world of same sex relationships only to have it blow up in her face when her parents learn of her “lesbian episodes.” It plants a wedge between Elise and her parents, and ruins the relationship with her younger sister, Lynn. It’s then Elise realizes the world does not accept her kind of love, and after a four-year respite at a college far from home, she leaves women behind to live a “normal” life. She doesn’t want to put her family through any more pain and yearns to be the daughter her parents could be proud of.
After settling at home in Miami, Elise begins dating Grayson, a high school classmate. They become serious very quickly, and are engaged within weeks – to the pleasure of her parents, but to the chagrin of her other “family” – best friends Carmen, Iran and Donna. They know Elise is simply fooling herself being with Gray. In spite of disagreeing with her decision, the friends take Elise out to celebrate, and that’s where Elise meets Symphony.
Symphony is the type of woman Elise has always desired – smart, sexy and self-confident. Despite being engaged to Gray and, she begins seeing Symphony on the sly, carrying on a wicked tryst. Elise is torn between the perfection of Symphony and the perfect life she has mapped out for herself with Gray.
Meanwhile, baby sister Lynn is falling through the cracks. Lynn always looked to Elise, but because of Elise couldn’t be true to herself, she fails Lynn. Their parents spent so much time trying to keep Elise “straight” that Lynn acts out to receive any attention at all. When Lynn’s so far gone that the worse happens, it takes the whole family by shock, but finally brings them together.
Am I My Sister’s Keeper? is a heart-wrenching tale of a woman who sacrifices her heart and soul to please her family. It takes her a while but Elise figures out that being herself, without qualms, takes true courage. S. Stephens writes a true story with intensity and a great ring of truth. The plot is carried out smoothly, to a climax that will keep the reader hanging on for dear life. Make room on your bookshelf for Stephens as she is an author worth reading every single time.
Reviewed December 2005