Rating: 3 out of 5
BEWARE: SPOILER ALERT!
The latest book that I have read is Sisterhood Everlasting (2011) by Ann Brashares. Those familiar with the popular YA series Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants know that this is the fifth installment, a long-awaited sequel which follows four best friends Bridget, Lena, Carmen, and Tibby as they are about to turn 30 years old.
In the time after college, Carmen has become a successful actress engaged to an arrogant jerk in the biz, art instructor Lena still pines for her teenage Greek love Kostos, Bridget lives with her boyfriend Eric in San Francisco but suffers from nomadic restlessness, and Tibby is living on the other side of the world in Australia with her techie boyfriend Brian.
Over the years, the girls have become so involved with their own lives that they've grown apart, each secretly yearning for re-connection but never following through. So when Tibby books them all a surprise trip to Greece, they are ecstatic to reunite after so long......that is, until tragedy strikes.
[If you're planning on reading this book, I highly suggest you stop reading this review now. Major spoiler alert up ahead!]
Let me start by saying that Tibby's death derailed the novel into territory that was both far-fetched and melodramatic. Since it occurs in the first quarter of the book, the rest of the pages are spent narrating through the other three girls' grief processes as they try to decipher whether Tibby drowned accidentally or intentionally.
I don't care if they were out of touch for awhile: I find it insanely hard to believe that Tibby would not inform her best friends of her terminal illness and her pregnancy, and instead would decide to send them on an emotional rollercoaster via the letters she gave them to be opened as designated dates after her passing.
Tibby was a no BS type of woman, and regardless of the turmoil that she must have suffered while being sick and isolated, a decent person would have at least given her friends a heads up that she just popped out a baby and would be kicking the bucket in the near future. Cold-hearted as it may sound, I found this plot twist utterly selfish and incongruent of Tibby's character. A terminal diagnosis is an opportunity to appreciate your loved ones while you're still alive--not a chance to send them on a wild goose chase to discover your toddler after you're gone.
And let's discuss her child Bailey for a moment. I don't mind her introduction as a way of keeping the spirit of Tibby alive; it's cliche, but I accept it. What I cannot tolerate is using Bailey to emotionally manipulate Bridget into keeping her own child.
The author Ann Brashares makes a big fuss that Bee couldn't imagine terminating her pregnancy after connecting with Bailey, couldn't even recognize the woman who could commit such selfishness before. I'm not aware of Brashares' personal beliefs regarding abortion, but Bridget's storyline is so pro-family that I find it offensive to women. Bee could have appreciated Bailey just as much if she decided not to become a mother herself--and to suggest otherwise was a major turn-off for me reading this book.
All in all, I loved the Sisterhood series but was ultimately disappointed by this book's turn of events. The girls either never developed (looking at you, Lena) or changed so much that they're nigh unrecognizable. Brashares has stated that she's open to writing more sequels, but Sisterhood Everlasting left such an everlasting bad taste in my mouth that I doubt I would be interested in reading more.