THE ORPHAN SISTER by Gwendolen Gross


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The youngest of triplet sisters asserts her identity in Gross’ fourth novel (The Other Mother, 2007, etc.).

Although all three girls are very close, Clementine’s minutes-older sisters Odette and Olivia are identically beautiful and communicate with a telepathy Clementine, the odd sister out, can never quite match. Odette and Olivia are also both Harvard-educated, happily married doctors and currently pregnant. In contrast, Clementine graduated belatedly from Oberlin (barely acceptable to her high-achieving family) and is now living in her parents’ garage apartment in Princeton while applying to vet schools. She is also single, not yet over the drowning death of her college boyfriend Cameron. Then the triplets’ highly regarded, much sought-after neurosurgeon father doesn’t show up for his rounds one day and remains missing for more than a week. Dr. Lord has been a frequently absent but authoritative, demanding and loving über-dad who has left the day-to-day running of the family to Clementine’s mother, an accomplished and highly educated woman who gave up her career to care for him and the girls. When it becomes apparent that Dr. Lord has told only Olivia where he is, schisms begin to divide the triplets and their mother in new ways. Olivia and Odette no longer seem quite as much alike or united. Their mother’s utter faith in her husband begins to crack. And Clementine realizes that her friendship with Cameron’s roommate Eli, who is doing graduate work in Princeton, is deeper and perhaps less platonic than she’s tried to believe. Dr. Lord’s secret is anticlimactic. But the novel is less concerned with the vaguely out-of-sync details of Dr. Lord’s crimes than with the coming-into-selfhood of Clementine.

At its best, the novel delves into the sister relationships, but the triplet hook only goes so far to mitigate the annoying entitlement of the characters and the heavy-handed if familiar plot.


Pub Date: July 19th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4516-2368-0
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2011


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