Sally Hepworth | The Good Sister

good sister sally hepworth

The Book: 

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth, 2021

The Characters: 

Fern and her love interest Wally
Rose and her husband Owen


The Plot (from Goodreads):

From the outside, everyone might think Fern and Rose are as close as twin sisters can be: Rose is the responsible one, with a home and a husband and a fierce desire to become a mother. Fern is the quirky one, the free spirit, the librarian who avoids social interaction and whom the world might just describe as truly odd. But the sisters are devoted to one another and Rose has always been Fern’s protector from the time they were small.

Fern needed protection because their mother was a true sociopath who hid her true nature from the world, and only Rose could see it. Fern always saw the good in everyone. Years ago, Fern did something very, very bad. And Rose has never told a soul. When Fern decides to help her sister achieve her heart’s desire of having a baby, Rose realizes with growing horror that Fern might make choices that can only have a terrible outcome. What Rose doesn’t realize is that Fern is growing more and more aware of the secrets Rose, herself, is keeping. And that their mother might have the last word after all.

Click here for book spoilers for The Good Sister
Book spoilers ahead–if you haven’t yet read The Good Sister, I suggest you turn back now.

The story is told primarily from Fern’s perspective in the present, with chapters where Rose’s journal tells us about their childhood.

Fern drowned Billy, her mom’s boyfriend’s kid. They were having a competition to see who could hold their breath underwater the longest. Billy was upset that he kept losing, so she held him underwater to try to help him win and accidentally killed him. Because of this incident, she was always worried that she would hurt someone else. 

The Twist:

Rose had been lying in the journal the whole time. She was gaslighting Fern into thinking that she was forgetful and dangerous–making her think she had forgotten to get milk or left the stove on, etc. She never told Fern to feed Alfie, and let her dog starve outside in the Texas summer for 4 days before calling her. I hate animal cruelty in books. I guessed at this point that Rose had never told Fern about feeding Alfie, but wasn’t completely sure of the ending. 

Fern gets pregnant, and Rose convinces Fern to let her raise the baby. When Fern tells their mother, the mother warns her not to give the baby to Rose. The mother has a brain injury and can’t talk well, so she is unable to explain why. 

The mother dies unexpectedly after a visit from Rose, who hasn’t been to see her in 16 years. 

Rose convinces Fern to break up with Wally and not tell him about the baby. One day he appears at Fern’s work to check on her, and tells her that Rose has asked him for money. He can tell that something is wrong with Rose and warns Fern to be wary. 

When Fern has her baby, she no longer wants to give it to Rose. She runs away from the hospital with the baby, and Rose gets her sent to the psych ward. 

The Ending:

Their mother’s death was investigated, and a detective found Rose’s bracelet at the scene. She also found puncture wounds in the mother’s hairline, and put together that Rose had given her an overdose of insulin to kill her. Fern is released from the hospital and moves in with Wally, and they raise the baby together.

good sister sally hepworth

The Review: 

I think The Good Sister is my favorite book by Sally Hepworth so far. 

I loved Fern’s character and her relationship with Wally. They were so honest and straightforward, it was refreshing. Especially because I had just read Normal People where the characters just refused to speak their mind. I loved Fern’s outlook on life, and though she sometimes has to decipher the intentions of her coworkers and friends, she does an extraordinary job of managing her sensory issues in public. I laughed at the description of her walking around in swim goggles and noise-canceling headphones. 

The pace slowed down a bit around 50%-75% of the way through the book. The reader can tell it’s building up to something but not what to. I had an inkling of the twist at the beginning, but SH did an awesome job of keeping the reader guessing until the end. 

Many thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for sharing this eARC with me in exchange for an honest review. The Good Sister will be released in the US on April 13, 2021. 

Read this if you liked: 

  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Also check out my reviews of Sally Hepworth’s other books:

good sister sally hepworth
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