I received this book free from Library Thing in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Sparrow Sisters: A Novel by Ellen Herrick
Published by William Morrow on September 1st 2015
Genres: Magical Realism
Source: Library Thing
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
With echoes of the alchemy of Practical Magic, the lushness of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, and the darkly joyful wickedness of the Witches of East End, Ellen Herrick’s debut novel spins an enchanting love story about a place where magic whispers just beneath the surface and almost anything is possible, if you aren’t afraid to listen
The Sparrow sisters are as tightly woven into the seaside New England town of Granite Point as the wild sweet peas that climb the stone walls along the harbor. Sorrel, Nettie and Patience are as colorful as the beach plums on the dunes and as mysterious as the fog that rolls into town at dusk.
Patience is the town healer and when a new doctor settles into Granite Point he brings with him a mystery so compelling that Patience is drawn to love him, even as she struggles to mend him. But when Patience Sparrow’s herbs and tinctures are believed to be implicated in a local tragedy, Granite Point is consumed by a long-buried fear—and its three hundred year old history resurfaces as a modern day witch-hunt threatens. The plants and flowers, fruit trees and high hedges begin to wither and die, and the entire town begins to fail; fishermen return to the harbor empty-handed, and blight descends on the old elms that line the lanes.
It seems as if Patience and her town are lost until the women of Granite Point band together to save the Sparrow. As they gather, drawing strength from each other, will they be able to turn the tide and return life to Granite Point?
The Sparrow Sisters is a beautiful, haunting, and thoroughly mesmerizing novel that will capture your imagination.
I picked up The Sparrow Sisters with some pretty lofty expectations and I suppose I kind of set myself up for failure there. Being that I’ve ran through Sarah Addison Allen’s library, I’m always looking for new magical realism stories but they seem few and far between. This being compared to SAA as well as Practical Magic had me switching this to all signs point to yes. Unfortunately, this was nothing but a disappointment and the magical realism tidbits just didn’t do it for me.
There are two parts to this story, but neither actually work. First, this is the story of the Sparrow sisters and how their family came to live in the town for generations upon generations. They’re known for being a little quirky but they’ve simply just become a fixture of the town and their strangeness is simply “accepted”. They keep to themselves, all living together in their family home until a new doctor comes to town who becomes instantly interested in the youngest Sparrow sister, Patience, for absolutely no reason at all. The second part of the story is the attempt at providing some semblance of a point, so there’s a bit of a pseudo-mystery, some moral conundrums, and all around pointlessness. See, Patience Sparrow is known for her Herbology remedies via the use of herbs from the family nursery. She seems to have a bit of a gift that’s been seemingly passed down from her family and she’s used it to help treat the townsfolk for years on anything from morning sickness to sleeplessness. When a local tragedy occurs, all signs point to Patience’s involvement just out of sheer negligence because of a misuse of herbs.
Patience and the good doctor Henry Carlyle are first introduced and immediately butt heads. Naturally, because we’re all adults here, Henry immediately falls for her prickly nature and insists on getting to know her. The two lack any sort of emotional spark and their attraction to one another remains completely hazy especially with their differing opinions on medicines and treatments. Henry has a secure position on his high horse while he rants and raves about Patience needing to send her patients to a “real doctor”. This is where the moral conundrums are in play.
“Look, you don’t expect me to stand back and let you treat a potentially sick child without some kind of conventional” – Henry emphasized the word – “medical participation?”
High horse. I told you. Henry would go on and on about the possible dangers of what she was doing and how her herbal remedies were going to hurt people someday. His ranking on the annoyance scale was up there with Rick.
I couldn’t help it. So, the book’s stance is natural remedies are evil and you shouldn’t trust them and just go to a “real doctor” instead. From personal experience, I never went to a “real” doctor when I was a kid and was raised on homeopathic (note, different than herbology) remedies. I felt that Henry’s stance on what “proper treatments” are and his constant ranting about “real doctors” was entirely unjustified and encompassed far too much of the book. What made it all the worse was before Henry, Patience was secure in her knowledge and belief of the good she was doing. Enter Henry and suddenly she’s filled with doubt and regret for her negligence. Please. Taking all the good she did and transforming her into a “witch” was only the next logical step, of course.
‘One look at the inscription on the band shell was enough to remind everyone in Granite Point how long it had been since panic seized the town, and how fast it had nearly destroyed it. If there was to be another witch hunt, it certainly had a strong start.’
Yes, because all that was missing was a modern day witch-hunt. The story continued unraveling. In addition to the story/plot itself, the writing felt incredibly stilted. There were some beautifully described scenes and I loved the portrayal of the small New England town, however, it lacked conviction. And good news? This is NATURALLY the start of a potential series.