Tuesday, July 8, 2014
The Phantom Limbs of the Rollow Sisters by Timothy Shaffert
Published October 2007 by Unbridled Books
Source: my copy purchased at the Omaha Lit Fest
Schaffert’s celebrated debut novel chronicles two sisters on the cusp of womanhood as they struggle to understand their father’s suicide as well their mother’s abandonment of them many years earlier. On graduating from high school, the sisters are once again set adrift, this time by their grandmother who leaves them for Florida. In order to survive, and perhaps even thrive, on their path to adulthood, they must learn to reconcile their pasts and discover how to depend upon themselves as well as on each other.
I'm a big fan of Schaffert's Coffins of Little Hope (my review) and was delighted to find here, in his debut novel, much of its charm. Schaffert has a wonderful ability to blend great sadness with humor, the mundane with the quirky.
Mabel and Lily have had a hard life. Even before their father's suicide, they were living with a mother suffering from depression. Abandoned by everyone they depended on, the girls must rely on each other. But this is not the story about how two people bonded and overcame; it's more the story about how they survived what they'd been through and each other. Because, despite being all each other really has, Mabel and Lily are just t as likely to hurt as help each other.
Here's what I really enjoy about Schaffert's books: they do not end all "happily ever after" but they do end in satisfying ways that feel realistic. Well, as realistic as a girl who pretends to be the recipient of a donor eye to try to get in with the family of a girl who died can be. Yep, realistic...but twisted! Of course, it helps, for me, that Schaffert's book are set in Nebraska, bringing with them familiar places and a familiar sensibility. But you needn't have been to King Fong's in Omaha to appreciate the world that Schaffert creates in The Phantom Limbs of the Rollow Sisters.