The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon

Source: Doubleday Books
Length: 336 pages
Publication Date: August 4, 2015

It was a dark and stormy night…

It’s not, and it wasn’t when I read Jennifer McMahon’s latest novel The Night Sister, but the book was so darkly atmospheric that it made me feel like it was. Or wish it was. Sort of the same thing? I digress.

Although slightly convoluted at times (much like this review aims to be), The Night Sister tells the story of the Slater family and Amy Slater’s complicated friendship with sisters Piper and Margot. Moving from the ’50s to the ’80s to the present, the novel has all hallmarks of a good horror novel without actually being a horror novel. Dilapidated, abandoned motel? Check. Hidden room? Check. Mysterious disappearance? Check. Gruesome, unexplainable murder? Check. Yet the story never really ventures into genre horror. This is a good thing.

McMahon weaves a complicated plot that blends the best parts of an atmospheric mystery and  a suspense novel. My enjoyment wavered a bit as she introduced elements of magical realism, but never enough to make me quit reading. I did not enjoy The Night Sister as much as I enjoyed The Winter People, but I would recommend both – as in if you liked the latter, you’ll enjoy the former as well. If you’re able to suspend your disbelief better than I am, you may enjoy it. As always, opinions differ, check out this rave review on Jenn’s Bookshelves.

Night SisterPair this one with a classic pepperoni pizza (as found on Life Made Simple), which is one of the few requests made by Amy’s daughter Lou, after her mother’s death.

Lately I’ve been feeling ambivalent towards food pairings. Anyone have any strong thoughts one way or another? On one hand, it keep me interested in finding new recipes, on the other…more work is more work.

Oh, and please share any thoughts you had about the book too. (This reads as sarcasm, right? Because it should.) My thought: I hate pepperoni on pizza. Even when you pick it off, it leaves such a strong aftertaste that there is no getting around it. Any toppings you hate on a pizza? Because pineapple is a popular one to make fun of, but I love it.

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  • Julie Merilatt

    This was my first encounter with McMahon and I really liked it:

    • Rory O’Connor

      I really like her writing, though I preferred The Winter People.

  • Naomi

    I like your food pairings! And, I agree with you about the pepperoni, and any other kind of meat on my pizza).
    I still have to read The Winter People!

    • Rory O’Connor

      Yes! No meat on pizza, ever!

  • Katie McD @ Bookish Tendencies

    Pineapple on pizza is my jam, so I’m with you there. I hate mushrooms and olives on a pizza, even though I gobble up olives OFF pizza at an alarming rate.

    • Rory O’Connor

      Yes! And I’m with you with no mushrooms or olives on a pizza.

  • Marisa @The Daily Dosage

    Love the food pairings, don’t stop. The Winter People is on the top of my TBR pile and something about black olives on pizza makes me happy. I’m the only one in the house who eats them (and veggie pizza for that matter) in this house so I rarely get to indulge. Or if I do then I get a bunch of leftovers. 🙂

    • Rory O’Connor

      My very favorite pizza is tomatoes, spinach, basil, and green peppers, which happens next to never in my house. Sadly.

  • mariahelena

    I almost look forward to seeing the food pairing as much as to reading your reviews. Please don’t stop. I absolutely do not eat pepperoni on my pizza. Meat just don’t belong on pizza. Neither does pineapple.

    • mariahelena

      PS. I love the new layout.

  • Jennine G.

    Fun fact I just read…that opening phrase was originally written by Victorian novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Weather as symbolism. That’s all. Lol

    • Rory O’Connor

      Haha, thanks. It is very foreboding…well, done Bulwer-Lytton.

  • Catherine

    I also liked Winter People better than Night Sister and, as you know, wish Night Sister could have gone in a different direction. I loved the creepiness of it but wish it had been more psychological than, as you said, magical realism.

    I don’t have to do the work so love the food pairings but really get that they can be a pain. I won’t stop reading the blog if they go away!

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