Parting Gifts by Katrina Anne Willis. Berkeley: She Writes Press, 2016. 263 pages. ****
Three sisters, Catherine, Anne and Jessica Mathers, united by their Midwestern childhood and distant parents, try to find meaning and love in their relationships and with each other. Catherine, the oldest, is an English professor and undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. She does the unthinkable and falls in love with one of her students. Anne, the middle child, is struggling to keep up in suburban America while caring for two children and shielding her husband from the truth. Jessica, the youngest and estranged by choice from her sisters and mother, finds acceptance and distance by becoming an exotic dancer. Eva, their mother is rapidly withdrawing into her Alzheimer's altered world and calls out daily for her youngest daughter and rarely recognizes the other two girls. A horrible accident causes all three sisters to re-evaluate what's really important in life and to look for answers in their childhood memories.
Willis has developed three strong female characters and their voices are heard clearly. While dealing with their own problems, the sisters feel isolated and alone, but lack the skills necessary to reach out and support one another. For an author's first novel, Willis has captured the emotions that can exist between sisters and the unbreakable bond that is formed from having the same parents. Well done!
I received an Advanced Reader Copy from BookSparks for a review.
Katrina Anne Willis was named the 2011 Midwest Writers Fellow, a 2013 Listen to Your Mother participant and a 2015 BlogHer Voice of the Year. She has been anthologized in My Other Ex: Women's True Story of Losing and Leaving Friends (2014) and Nothing but the Truth So Help Me God: 73 Women on Life's Transitions (2014). Her work has appeared on a variety of sites, including the Manifest-Station, Marmalode, Indy's Child, BlogHer, Hands Free Mama, and Momastery. A Hoosier at heart, Katrina currently lives in Northwest Ohio with her husband and four teenagers, and she writes semi-regularly at www.katrinaannewillis.com. This is her first novel.