Despite its length, this review is spoiler free!
For every reader, there is an author who needs no introduction. You don’t have to convince me to pick up their latest book with a slick press release, awesome book trailer or ethereal dust jacket. These things might make me even more excited, sure, but I know something about these writers as well as I know my own (big) nose: I’m going to read their stories no matter what.
Ann Brashares is one such author — when it comes to her Sisterhood books, anyway. I read her series centering on lifelong friends Tibby, Carmen, Lena and Bridget as a teen myself and was particularly enchanted by the fact they lived in suburban Maryland, like me. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants novels were hallmarks of my formative years — novels that bolstered me up and encouraged me with their realistic models of love and friendship. I adored the films based on the books, too, and think often of the Septembers and where they would be now.
Which is why I shouted with joy after learning Brashares would offer us a follow-up to her beloved series: Sisterhood Everlasting, a novel checking in with the girls ten years after the fourth book ended. At 29, I expected Tibby, Lena, Bridget and Carmen to have developed and grown and matured in such a way that I would celebrate both their struggles and successes, rejoicing in the redemptive powers of friendship. I was expecting a look at surviving a quarter-life crisis, perhaps, and figured one or two might be married, might have children, might have “big girl” jobs in cities. I assumed they’d still be figuring out their family and personal dramas, sure, but they’d be light years ahead of were they were. Life is all about moving forward, after all.
But I didn’t expect the long, melodramatic and often maudlin book I was delivered. Going into Sisterhood Everlasting, I didn’t even read a synopsis of the plot — I just knew I had to read it, no matter what, so I didn’t bother. I didn’t want anything to be spoiled for me. My approach was completely fresh and undiluted; I walked in with a clear head and an open heart. And I was disappointed.
I didn’t expect to feel sick to my stomach while reading this book, aching with a hurt I didn’t know I could feel for book characters. Since I don’t think I can discuss Sisterhood Everlasting without spoiling the story for you, I’m not going to describe it at all. And if you’re planning on reading this one, I wouldn’t recommend peeking at too many other summaries, either.
I wanted to love this book. I wanted so badly to love this book, and it pains me to say that I just . . . did not love this book. Brashares’ writing is, as always, lovely and moving. She has a way of diving straight into the minds of these, our favorite friends, that is unparalleled. What they felt, I felt. How they hurt? I hurt (and oh, did I hurt). But it was all just so sad, you guys. Really, really sad.
The only bright spot in the long, drawn-out slog that was Sisterhood Everlasting was the story of Lena and Kostas. Lena has long been my favorite of the Septembers and the most like me, I’d wager, and I craved the bits of narrative involving the two like a wanderer lost in the desert. No matter how tough this was to read, I had to see how Kostas and Lena’s stories would play out.
Was this book suspenseful, thought-provoking, addictive? Yes. Did I ever actually think of abandoning it in the few days in which I inhaled it, desperate for the next section? No. Did my stomach ache as though I’d suffered through a terrible episode of grief myself, giving me bad dreams for days? Absolutely.
But I’m not sorry I read it. I wish Brashares had written us a different ending, but I understand the thought process behind the undying nature of the girls’ bond . . . and I could appreciate what it was she was trying to demonstrate. But I didn’t like it, and I was disappointed by the fact that, ten years after we last saw them, none of the girls seemed to have changed or matured at all.
My sister, also a devoted Sisterhood fan, read this book before me. I watched for days as she paced the house with hardcover in hand, frantically turning the pages and staying up late into the night to finish. As someone who works from home and has a crazy schedule, Kate barely has time to read — but she finished Sisterhood Everlasting less than 72 hours after receiving it. When she was ready to pass it over to me, her eyes were glassy. “I think it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read,” she announced.
I was next with it and also devoured the novel quickly. For three days, we checked in with each other constantly regarding plot development and stayed up discussing the intricacies of the story. As I continued reading and found myself more and more annoyed, Kate’s eyes began to narrow. She’d loved it fiercely and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t just as enamored with it as she was.
After I finished Sisterhood Everlasting and shared my final thoughts, my sister seemed angry with me. It’s always that way with a book we love intensely, isn’t it? We’re protective of it. We nurture it. We want to keep it safe from harm. “You better not give that book a bad review!” she hollered.
And I’m not, Kate. More of a lukewarm one with a soft undertone of distaste.
Fans of the Sisterhood series will be eager to catch up with their favorite characters, but I’d warn any tender hearts away from this one. On the whole, I would have rather left our ladies on the cusp of adulthood on that final day in Greece. That parting scene in Forever In Blue brought tears to my eyes in a way that this book never did — or could. I just wanted more.
3 out of 5!