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The Orphan Sister

The Orphan Sister

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The Orphan Sister

ratings:
4/5 (37 ratings)
Length:
299 pages
5 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Jul 5, 2011
ISBN:
9781451623697
Format:
Book

Description

A lyrical and thought provoking novel perfect for book clubs, The Orphan Sister by Gwendolyn Gross questions the intricacies of nature and nurture, and the exact shape of sisterly love…

Clementine Lord is not an orphan. She just feels like one sometimes. One of triplets, a quirk of nature left her the odd one out. Odette and Olivia are identical; Clementine is a singleton. Biologically speaking, she came from her own egg. Practically speaking, she never quite left it. Then Clementine’s father—a pediatric neurologist who is an expert on children’s brains, but clueless when it comes to his own daughters—disappears, and his choices, both past and present, force the family dynamics to change at last. As the three sisters struggle to make sense of it, their mother must emerge from the greenhouse and leave the flowers that have long been the focus of her warmth and nurturing.

For Clementine, the next step means retracing the winding route that led her to this very moment: to understand her father’s betrayal, the tragedy of her first lost love, her family’s divisions, and her best friend Eli’s sudden romantic interest. Most of all, she may finally have found the voice with which to share the inside story of being the odd sister out...
Publisher:
Released:
Jul 5, 2011
ISBN:
9781451623697
Format:
Book

About the author

Gwendolen Gross received an M. F. A. in poetry and fiction at Sarah Lawrence College. She is the author of the novels Field Guide and Getting Out. She lives in northern New Jersey.

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The Orphan Sister - Gwendolen Gross

ADVANCE PRAISE FOR THE ORPHAN SISTER

A breathtakingly original novel. A haunting exploration of love, loyalty, sisters, hope, and the ties that bind us together—and make the ground tremble beneath us when they break. I loved, loved, loved this novel.

—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times

bestselling author of Pictures of You

This title is also available as an eBook

"With exquisite language and an empathetic ear, Gwendolen Gross paints a gorgeous portrait of life, love, loss and sisterhood, and forces you to ask yourself: how far will you go for your family and what secrets can shatter even that bond? The Orphan Sister will linger long after you’ve turned the final page."

—Allison Winn Scotch, New York Times bestselling

author of The One That I Want

This charming portrait of an impossibly gorgeous and gifted family is something rare: a delightful confection, filled with humor and warmth, that also probes the complex nature of identity, the vagaries of romantic and filial love, and the materialism inherent in contemporary American culture.

—Joanna Smith Rakoff, author of A Fortunate Age

"The Orphan Sister is engaging and sentence-perfect, wonderful in so many ways, but I love it best for its vibrant, emotionally complex main character Clementine. I felt so entirely with her, as she loves those around her with both devotion and complexity and as she struggles to achieve a delicate balance between belonging to others and being herself."

—Marisa de los Santos, New York Times bestselling

author of Love Walked In

Praise for Gwendolen Gross’s previous novels

THE OTHER MOTHER

A Redbook Editor’s Choice

A featured alternate of the Doubleday Book Club,

The Literary Guild, and The Book-of-the-Month Club

Documents the front lines of the Mommy Wars, but its real strength lies in exposing the complex inner battlefields motherhood can open up.

Publishers Weekly

An electrifyingly complex and explosively gripping portrait of contemporary, have-it-all motherhood.

Booklist

"The battle of The Other Mother is a dark look into everything that tears us apart and brings us closest together."

Dame magazine

A must-read. . . .

The Roanoke Times

The depth of Gross’s portraits . . . renders a thoughtful account of how, for modern mothers, there is no easy choice.

Boston Now

GETTING OUT

"A winning novel from the author of Field Guide."

Booklist

Funny, touching, and exhilarating.

Publishers Weekly

Even committed couch potatoes should enjoy the graceful blending of outdoor adventuring and wry immersion in family dynamics that distinguishes this engaging second novel by Gross.

Kirkus Reviews

Witty, smart, and inspiring.

—Jenny McPhee, author of The Center of Things

Gross captures the erotic freshness of woods and avid outdoorsmen with perfect clarity.

Christian Science Monitor

FIELD GUIDE

The certitudes of scientific research yield to the unsolvable mysteries of emotional connection in this accomplished debut. Gross’s deceptively spare style glistens with pungent language and precise aperçus.

Publishers Weekly

Stunning. A remarkable debut.

Kirkus Reviews (starred)

This beautifully written debut novel offers appealing characters and provides a unique view into the sensuous scientific world of field study with all of its attendant hardships and marvels.

Library Journal

Credible and inspiring.

Booklist

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Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Epilogue

Acknowledgments

Notes

Readers Group Guide

For

CLAUDIA ROSE,

REBECCA S. COLAO,

AND SAMANTHA R. GROSS,

my sisters,

and for

CYNTHIA H. STARR,

sister in words.

ONE

When my sister Odette called to tell me Dad hadn’t shown up for rounds, my first guilty thought was that he’d had a heart attack on the Garden State Parkway, that his Benz had swerved, swiveled, and scraped against the railing near exit 142 until it flipped into the opposite lane like a beetle on its back, ready for the picking of crows. He’d fumbled for the aspirin he always kept in the cup holder, in a wood and silver pillbox he couldn’t unclasp when it mattered at last. Blood would mat the silvery-red mix of his still-thick hair, his eyes would be open, he’d be dead, and I’d never have a chance to prove him wrong.

Of course, my second thought was to feel horrible for my first.

No, he didn’t say anything to me, I said. I almost suggested she call Olivia, but I knew she didn’t need to, because Odette and Olivia, my twin sisters, know each other’s opinions, their desires and mistakes, without speaking in words. Though sometimes I am party to this peculiar frequency, sometimes I stand feeling like the last chosen for a team because they are identical twins, and I am their triplet, number three. I don’t match physically (they are four inches taller than I and my eyes are hazel green to their clear, cold blue) or hear as clearly in the ether of their silent communication.

I think I’ll try Mom again, said Odette. She was using her distinctive stage whisper that meant she wanted everyone standing in that hospital room at Robert Wood Johnson to know she was conducting important business on her cell phone. She was allowed to have a cell phone. She was a doctor.

I can, I sighed, thinking I didn’t want to.

Just wait, asserted Odette, but we both already knew I’d procrastinate awhile and then go seek out Mom.

Dinner he would miss—rounds, no. I’ll start and give him another hour, Odette finished.

If I were talking to anyone else, I’d have been unable to relinquish my frustration. Even Olivia didn’t root me to myself like magnet to steel.

I did feel calmer when I heard both my sisters’ voices. And I could tell them apart—Odette’s had an almost imperceptible deepness, a quiet, sad quality, a clarinet, while Olivia was all flute, in all circumstances. No one else could hear this, however.

We were polyzygots—they were identical, monozygotic, one egg and one sperm met and then split into two zygotes. I was fraternal—another egg, another sperm, but the same timing, which means I was like an ordinary sibling in terms of genetic material, and they were halves of a whole.

We had this special triplet quirk called Party Trick we developed in elementary school, time of Ouija boards and Monopoly (you would never want to play a strategy game with us; we knew how to team up and committed our own form of natural selection): we could speak word by word, each of us in turn, with the fluidity and natural cadence of a single person speaking. We were sleepover favorites when we were little; this was captivating, no matter how dull the subject. We don’t like ham because it’s too salty. It wasn’t practiced. We had a pact to do it whenever one of us asked—something we used rarely as adults, but still, it was always there, ability, connections, quirk, Party Trick.

In the middle of this crisis, I was struggling with my computer, trying to gain access to an online exam I needed to take in the next twenty-four hours. The server rejected my password. I was all ready, notes, coffee softened with Ghirardelli chocolate powder and half-and-half, a final exam indulgence. I had a bag of carrots and a bag of cheddar bagel chips and a giant sports bottle of water, even though I knew, from my undergraduate research, that bottled water is less stringently regulated than tap. I had my blanket and my most devoted mutt, Alphabet, who was lying on my feet as if he knew I wouldn’t walk him until I’d at least half finished the timed exam. You could only log out and back on once. I had to get an A. I hadn’t done as well on the lab portion as I meant to, but that was because I’d broken up with Feet (officially Ferdinand, an engineering graduate student from Spain who had fabulous dimples and little regard for my privacy), my brief boyfriend whose nickname should have kept me from giving him my phone number in the first place.

Sitting ready at my desk, I tried to log on. I used my password, dogdocClem, but the system said it was invalid. Dad always did this: he made us worry. He blustered in at family gatherings and brushed away queries about his lateness like lint from a suit. But somehow we all worried he was Not Okay—and I was the especial queen of worrying this—as if his Okayness held together the very universe.

I tried again, pounding the keys as I typed in my account number and the password. I was still invalid. I felt invalid. My head throbbed and I was still wondering whether Dad was all right. So instead of starting my exam, I apologized to Alphabet, restarted my computer, and got up to go see my mother.

Maybe he ran away, I thought, as I walked up to the conservatory. My father had built two additions for my mother: an art studio, because she had once casually mentioned she might like to take art classes again, and the conservatory of flowers, a long, inventive, difficult-to-maintain greenhouse that extended from the back kitchen into the lawn. She was usually there, my mother, though we had full-time gardeners for the roses and the vegetables that would be transplanted, after the last frost, into a raised plot by the three maidens’ fountain. Mom made exquisite botanical drawings, having taken a class at the New York Botanical Garden before we were born. Sometimes I thought she was simply a woman of too many talents and opportunities—each was diluted in the soup of all her possibilities.

Maybe he went up to the house in Vermont because he is getting senile and thought it was summer vacation. Maybe he’s had enough of keeping everything gripped in his fist and he let go; he went mad, like King George III.

I’d been mulling, for about six months, the possibility that my father might have early dementia, or even Alzheimer’s. I’d researched the topic when I should have been studying chemistry. Symptom one: memory loss that disrupts daily life. This was a disruption, for sure, though generally his focus on—and memory of—family commitments and plans had always been rigorously limited. Symptom two: challenges in planning or solving problems. No. Yes. Maybe. He had twice had Mom reschedule her plans for an anniversary party because he had forgotten about other commitments. But this wasn’t new.

I’m going to have to go to the golf outing, he said, the second time. You don’t have to come. My mother had sighed, dialing her party planner.

Symptom three: trouble with tasks at home, work, or leisure. No. He seemed to have no problems with work. Until now—not showing up for rounds. I was probably getting ahead of myself. I never used to get ahead of myself; I used to let the world unroll like a scroll, the beginning happening before the middle and the end, but ever since Cameron, I’d wanted more dimensions, I’d worried more about the unrevealed paper.

So when Odette called I should have just waited, I should have circumnavigated the mess of other people’s early and late, but I was a triplet, and triplets have extra arms, extra eyes, extra marginally obsessive worries. I thought of my father standing by his car, staring at his keys as if they were foreign objects. Last week, I’d been witness behind the carriage-house curtain as he stood like that for a moment; was he thinking, or was he lost inside his own head? Was this the beginning of a crumbled father? The beginning of interventions and wheelchairs? No. No. Maybe.

TWO

All the way from the carriage house, where I was living, to the main, where my mother lived mostly alone, but for the occasional large presence of my father, A Very Busy Man, I tried to stop visualizing an accident. He’d been hit by a truck as he tucked his car door shut, giving it the love pat I’d observed with nausea—and, if I’m being honest, a simultaneous pleasing familiarity—since he bought the car. It was now almost ten years old, a top-of-the-line Mercedes sedan. Dad bought his car when the twins neared the end of Harvard undergrad; Odette had teased him and called it a Nazi car when he drove his prize into the drive. It was April, spring break, and my mother’s three hundred daffodils from White Flower Farm smeared the lawn with cream and gold, trumpets of triumph.

Dad had turned the deep plum color of his quiet anger, and Odette giggled, Olivia giggling to match her anxiety. I felt the bubble of it, but refused to succumb.

Nazis are not funny, said my mother, holding her hands like stop signs in front of the twins, two twenty-year-old women who were home from Harvard, finishing their medical school applications. Harvard and Oberlin were the first step in our lifetime of long division. I had to listen harder to hear them whenever we reunited.

Yeah, said Odette, who was at the peak of her rebellion, which was a mild phase, and tolerated well, like many of the newer antibiotics. Olivia, because she was the same as Odette, rebelled quietly. She got a tiny, tiny tattoo of a rose just above her shoulder blade, much like the rose that had been named after our mother. She also had it removed in an operation she described as excruciating, but elegantly successful, the next year.

But Mercedes did use the Jews in factories—I read, I had said, wanting more, wanting my dad’s face to blossom into rage. We were just post-teen years; we were pushing out the margins of family. My father, who controlled everything, the money, the order of the house, the comings and goings. As long as I could remember, we asked him to be excused, we asked him if it was okay to go out, we asked him if we could speak at dinner, in subtle ways, waiting for one of his lectures to subside, like requesting to speak freely in front of a superior officer. Part of me thought of it as civility and respect, but that part was dormant.

This subject is closed, my father said. The Holocaust is history, and this car is something I have desired for a long time and you girls won’t ruin it with your delayed adolescent lashings.

Hey, quipped Odette. I didn’t lash.

Olivia furrowed her brow with insignificant rage, but said nothing.

It’s okay, he said, cupping Odette under his shoulder. He took my mother under the other arm, and Olivia leaned on Odette. They were like a family of birds in a single nest. Olivia reached for me, and Odette silently told me to come in closer, but I could only hold their hands.

Mom? I asked, walking into the conservatory, as if she could be anyone else. My mother’s hair was a perfect artificial light, blond-streaked brown that matched my sisters’. I didn’t know why she didn’t dye it red like mine—her original color was in-between. If it weren’t for the crow’s-feet, you might mistake her for one of her daughters. She used Botox, though we weren’t supposed to know about it. The sad part was that she probably only did it because her friends did, not because she wanted to be smooth in that strange, paralyzed way brought on by toxic injections.

Over here, she said. She was by the Octavia rose, the one named after her. There were specimens in the New York Botanical Garden, in the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco; the Octavia rose had won best in show twice in the mideighties. It was peach-colored, with tight, small blossoms and pale pink veins that made the petals appear almost like a light-skinned woman’s translucent skin.

It’s got something, she said. Maybe a must. Or bug— She sighed and waved her hand over the plant as if imparting a magic spell.

Blight, gall, I thought. We knew these ailments from an early age. We helped her with grafting projects.

Do you know where Dad is? I asked her, casually testing the thorns.

Don’t break those, said my mother. "It’s not good for her.

He’s at rounds I believe. You can check the Diary. She smiled, benevolent, but ignored my question and continued tending her rose.

He isn’t—that’s why Odette called.

Your father leads his own life.

Wake up! I sniped, but only internally. Olivia was the only third who could actually say things like that to Mom—some small piece of Dad was lodged in Olivia by nurture, or maybe nature; maybe a dad gene expressed itself somehow with louder song in Olivia than Odette. She had the tiniest pinch more confidence, the tiniest bit of directable anger in the chiaroscuro of her eyes.

I wanted to ask again, but I didn’t want to hurt her. When my mother answered questions with obscurities, she was shutting down. I had to be gentle with her—this was the way we were closest—unlike my sisters, I avoided maternal conflict. I wouldn’t scratch at her surface for the welling of sap.

Still, I tried once more. Do you think he forgot to write it in? Has his memory seemed different lately, Mom? Do you think he forgot?

She fingered a thorn. "No. He is getting older, but he’s not senile.

Sometimes I don’t know why I bother with this prima donna flower, she deflected.

Because she has a lovely name?

Maybe. My mother smiled again, but this time it was enigmatic. I could almost imagine her dumping the rose on the ground and dancing up the aisle of the greenhouse, freed at last from a single domestic obligation. My mother was talented, and kind, and thwarted, but I think she took the yoke of beauty and detail willingly. She could do more—Dad wasn’t stopping her, he just wasn’t paying much attention to her choices, I thought. Maybe her maybe marked letting Dad and his flower go just a little in return for his benign neglect.

In the front hall stood a tall sideboard that had belonged to my father’s family. The drawers were lined with shoddy velvet, and silver teapots, six of them, huddled in the glass cabinets on the bottom. Paul Revere supposedly cast one. In the drawers Mom kept the two important books of our family lives, books I had resented for years and now looked upon as a ridiculous compulsion, my parents’ control manifest. My sisters were both married, both pregnant, and in private practice—together—an ob-gyn and a pediatrician, nothing as fancy as Dad’s career, but manageable, matching, and compatible, more or less, with motherhood; while at the same age, twenty-nine, I was living the single-student lifestyle in my parents’ carriage house, so I might have to look at the books once in a while. I couldn’t ignore them: the Diary, which listed where everyone important (being my mother or my sisters, mostly; Dad only put in his work appointments, but my sisters were tracked religiously. I had a spotty record ever since I left for college) was at any given time. Even now that Odette and Olivia had their own suburban minimansions in Princeton Junction, on the same street, three houses apart, Mom kept their work schedules, their own ob appointments (she attended the hearings of the heartbeats), their vacation schedules, in the Diary. They were so full, my sisters—I felt it when I was with them, the slowing of all systems after a meal. Packed patient schedules, occasional dates with their husbands; it would only be busier soon. I felt how wanted and whole and overwhelmed they were, each centered in the middle of a seesaw, unable to move for fear of losing balance. I knew it was easier for me; I was unencumbered, except for the tipping of my own concerns.

I checked the book for today and it just said Rounds, Odette; Office hours, Olivia; Inspect conservatory, Octavia; and Rounds, Charles. I sort of wanted Final Exam for Organic Chemistry (prerequisite for Vet School) Online After She Gets the Fucking Computer to Log Her In, Clementine at the end, but after I finished packing for Oberlin almost a decade ago, I’d ripped out a page of the Diary, swearing I didn’t want to be part of such anal, weird, Waspy, Big Brother recording. Dad had agreed, calmly writing me a note that said Mother would no longer list my whereabouts in the Diary, but he’d like to know in general when tuition would be due and whether I’d please my mother with my presence at Thanksgivings and Christmas.

I was living in the carriage house behind my parents’ mansion with my dogs, Ella and Alphabet, a ferret named Cheese I’d kept since someone abandoned him at Oberlin, and a boa constrictor, Skinny, whom I’d rescued from a sewer when I first moved home. Feet, my ex, was with me when I dropped my cell phone into the leaves, then kicked it into the storm drain like some physical-comedy act. I reached in, lying on the sidewalk while Feet stood above to make sure no one stepped on me, and felt Skinny before I felt the phone. Skinny, ever friendly, twined himself up my forearm, and I was not repulsed, which I took to be a sign. Also, no one claimed him, though I contacted the university, the shelter, and the police, who thought at first I was putting them on about a five-foot boa.

Skinny was puzzling; he often escaped his tank, though the cover latched on the outside. Sometimes I found him under the bed; sometimes bathing in light on my dining room table. Feet had convinced me to keep him. Feet liked snakes. He also read my journal—the main reason we broke up. He read what I’d written about our sex, that I preferred talking with my friend Eli to sleeping with Feet, that he drooled excessively when, well, attending to my needs. I have always felt that anyone who read my journal (and my sisters had done so, especially when they were afraid I was possibly suicidal) would have to be responsible for what he or she read. Odette and Olivia could handle it. Feet couldn’t. He ranted at me, complaining that I didn’t like sex (not true), that I spent too much time with my animals and Eli. That I didn’t know just how good I had it. We fought vociferously, outside his dumpy graduate student housing, a cinder-block wonder two blocks from campus. When we finally broke up, it felt dirtier than

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What people think about The Orphan Sister

4.0
37 ratings / 13 Reviews
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  • (5/5)
    I liked it...a lot. I liked the perspective of the one that is not identical. Occasionally, I would mix up the sequence of chapters but would eventually get back on track.
    I would like to see a sequel...find out what happens to Clem and Eli; explore more of the mother's perspective and have Clem and Claudette interact and explore sisterhood.
  • (4/5)
    The writing reminded me a bit of White Oleander. Beautiful, very few unnecessary adverbs. I liked the characters and felt a connection with them them from the beginning. I'm not sure if I'd read it again, but it's nothing personal. It's just a "once is perfect" kind of book.
  • (5/5)
    Such lovely, intimate writing.I will be looking for more from this author.
  • (4/5)
    I really enjoyed this book. It's about Clementine and her sisters Odette and Olivia. They are triplets but the two O's are from the same egg so they are identical and Clementine is not. Clementine is connected to them as twins would be yet she is separate and she feels separate from them hence the title of the book. This book bounces back and forth from present time to history and gives a background along the way of why things are happening to the family. Like any family, they have their secrets and their dysfunctions. This is a beautifully written book and Clemetine is a very strong person as are her sisters. I really enjoyed this book and I recommend it.
  • (1/5)
    Weak story line. The climax does not justify the build up.
  • (3/5)
    This is a story of Clementine and how she is trying to muddle through life being one of a set of triplets the catch is that she is a fraternal and the 2 others Olivia and Odette were born at the same time as she they are identical twins. A descent story of fitting in but not quite. Alot of back and forth then and now which was somewhat confusing at times but overall a descent book.
  • (5/5)
    Going into this, I didn't really have any expectations, but was hesitantly hopeful it might be interesting. I really didn't know anything about it, except that the triplet thing. I am happy to report that The Orphan Sister was about so much more than that. This story grabbed me from page one and I devoured it whole, the funny, the sweet, the romantic, the depressing and even the scenes about babies (which for me is saying something).

    Clem has such a real voice that you really feel like you're getting to know her. She is intelligent and angry, broken and hopeful. There are so many facets to who she is and her problems feel like real life problems. Her hangups about being left out while also being afraid of the current balance falling apart are so illogical and lifelike. Of course, who doesn't like a heroine who has a veritable menagerie of creatures: two dogs, a ferret and a snake (a five foot boa constrictor).

    The triplet/twin themes are used to explore concepts of individuality and identity. Are the twins stronger because they have each other or is Clem stronger because she's naturally more independent? The twin way of communicating was also completely fascinating. I wonder if people really do that, and suspect they might, which makes me wonder just what the human brain is capable of...

    The other main aspects of the story deal with romantic relationships, that of Clem's mother and father, as well as Clem's love life. The former's resolution I did not find entirely satisfying exactly, but it was unsatisfying in a true to life way; everything does not always have a really good ending. Clem's love life involves a lot of grief, since her first, powerful love died while they were both still in college (where they met). This incapacitated her for a long while, but, even after recovering, it's hard to get over someone you never had a chance to encounter real life with.

    This book was so beautiful and moving and was just perfect for what I wanted to read right now, even though I didn't realize that going in. Maybe I should be reading a bit more adult fiction; I've gotten so caught up in YA that I'd forgotten how great it can be.
  • (4/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    The Orphan Sister tells the story of a set of triplet sisters. Two sisters, Odette and Olivia, are identical. The third sister, Clementine, knows she is “different”.As they grow, the identical sisters continue seemingly identical lives, careers, styles, even childbearing. Yet there is an underlying feeling of loneliness.The third (“orphan”) sister, Clementine, learns to embrace her status as “single sister”. She develops her own life and identity, yet maintains her connection to her sisters.The sisters struggle through family problems, yet learn there is a special strength that they have as triplets. Though their father creates problems through his absence, and is distant when he is there, the mother also has issues of detachment. This further cements the girls’ connections to each other.Through Clementine, we learn there are twists and turns and surprises that reveal secrets and explanations, as well. The writing is well done and the storyline is unique and intriguing.Gwendolen Gross draws you in and makes you want to understand these fascinating sisters.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (3/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    A really good book by an upcoming author who has her own style and a way with words. The story centers around three sisters, triplets, but two are twins and have their own special communication and the third sometimes feels left out. However, their life is shattered when they find out some revealing news about their father's past and all three have a difficult time coping. A book that will stay with you for a long time since you wonder what will become of the characters.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (3/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    This book was okay for me and it did hold my interest, however I never really felt like I got to know any of the other characters besides Clem. The story is told from Clementine's point of view. She has always felt like the odd sister even though she is a triplet. Her two other sisters are identical twins and she is a fraternal.The story opens up with the dad missing. Eventually we learn that their dad had a secret that he has never revealed to his family. When it comes to light, the family is divided and tested.The story moves along very slowly. It really is a book about Clementine, and how events have shaped her life. Their dad has a very small role in the book. It seems to work because Clementine and her sisters constantly talk about how they rarely know him and he is always off traveling with work, etc. So the readers also do not really learn anything about him.This is the first book I have read from this author. It was just okay for me.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    Let me just say that I loved it so much that I already purchased one of her other books (via e-books), The Other Mother! This book pulls you right in with a family drama right on page 1! From there on, I just had to keep reading and turning pages. In the beginning of the book, I was a little miffed at Clementine and her mother. It seemed they either didn't want to deal with "issues" or were naive or something. Boy was I wrong....you obtain an understanding while the story unfolds (especially Clementine) and of course, it all comes together. Gwendolen Gross has an amazing talent to tell a story with characters you can't forget and want to know more about them and their lives. She writes is so beautifully. I really enjoyed that a good part of the story took place at Oberlin....loved the Ohio references.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (4/5)
    Triplets Odette, Olivia and Clementine are at major crossroads in their lives when their father abandons them and their mother. Odette and Olivia are identical twins and Clementine seems to be just another sister except that she was born at the same time. Odette and Olivia, both doctors like their pediatric neurosurgeon father are also pregnant at the same time while Clementine is struggling to get in to veterinarian school when she moves back home while waiting for her acceptance letter. One day, her father doesn't show up for his hospital rounds and completely vanishes. Clementine imagines all sorts of nasty things happening to him but even Clementine can't imagine the truth or the reason for his disappearance until it comes to light when Olivia receives an telephone call from their father explaining everything.The story weaves back and forth between Clementine's youth, her father's rise to power and wealth and her current romantic life with a man who truly loves her, Eli. Clem is such an interesting character. She is not bombastic, tells things with a bit of snark, a little drama and dead pan delivery that is a bit world weary. The writing is just how I like it: quick, not overly descriptive and with smart dialogue. To read through Clem's history, her relationship with her mother and sisters is just a wonderful slice of life and very believable. I loved her mother's non-response to her husband's vanishing act. She simply moved on and encouraged her daughters to do the same. The real twist is when the full story comes out and Clem finds her own match in life beyond her twin sisters to whom she never really felt a part of. Sorry, I am being good, and you will just have to read the book to find out what happens with Clem and her family. The story reminded me a bit of Lisa Lutz and Jonathan Tropper in how the story unfolds and the little familial quirks that are displayed.
  • (4/5)
    I think that there are periods in our lives when we all may feel out of step with our siblings and/or family. We simply feel as if we don't fit in for some reason. This appears to be the underlying theme of The Orphan Sister by Gwendolen Gross. Clementine Lord feels out-of-step with her sisters, even though she is a triplet. It doesn't help that they are identical twins and she is simply the "sister." Or at least that how it feels to her at times. Clem's sisters are high achievers and have beautiful names, Odette and Olivia. Their mother's name is Octavia so of course Clem feel's left out with something as simple as just her name. The twins were accepted to Harvard and went to medical school, ultimately specializing in obstetrics and pediatrics. They got married at the same time and even had their children within days of one another. Clem fell in love first but her boyfriend died during college. As a result of his death, it took Clem three years to complete her final year of college. She's unsure of what she wants to do with her life but thinks she wants to become a vet...which is as close to medicine as she'll get. Clem loves her sisters, as well as her mother and father but she just feels that there's something that puts her out of sync with the rest. All three sisters desperately want the approval of their father, and seem to subconsciously compete for that approval. Just when Clem is starting to feel comfortable with her life and where its heading her father disappears. Then it is revealed that he had another wife. The drama quotient is upped tremendously by this news. Clem is at first worried about her father's absence and then just pissed that he would leave and remain incommunicado. Ms. Gross has provided characters that are recognizable and likable because of their faults and blemishes. The Orphan Sister is a delightful story about learning to like your family not just love them and about accepting our individual differences.