Sisters & Husbands
Connie Briscoe, 2009
Grand Central Publishing
Ten years have passed since Sisters and Lovers, and Beverly, now 39, is engaged to Julian, a man her family and friends agree is the epitome of a great catch: he's gorgeous, loyal, trustworthy, successful, and very much in love with her. Since this is Beverly's third engagement in the past five years, after breaking off the previous two at the last moment, everyone's happy that she's finally settling down.
For Beverly and Julian, nothing could be better than being in love and planning their wedding. That is until Beverly's oldest sister's marriage falls apart and dampens the mood of what should have been the happiest time in Beverly's life. Now, second-guessing her impending nuptials, Beverly is forced to wonder if marriage really works.
Will she stick it out? Or will her fears cloud her judgment once again? (From the publisher.)
• Birth—December 31, 1952
• Where—Washington, DC, USA
• Education—B.A. Hampton University; M.A., American
• Currently—lives in Maryland, USA
Connie Briscoe has been a full-time published author for more than ten years. Born with a hearing impairment, Connie never allowed that to stop her from pursuing her dreams—writing. Since she left the world of editing to become a writer, Connie has hit the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Boston Herald, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists. (From the publisher.)
Her own words:
When I wrote Sisters and Lovers, the prequel to Sisters and Husbands, I had recently entered my 40s. I was single after a divorce many years earlier, and most of my girlfriends were also single. I remember thinking how different life was for me and many of my girlfriends than it had been for my parents' generation. Back then, most women were married with children in college by age 40. Yet, women in my generation were less inclined to even marry before reaching their 30s. Many of us, whether single by choice or chance, had to learn to accept living much of our lives without a permanent mate. That's how Beverly was born. When Sisters and Lovers opens, she's 39, still single and struggling with her situation.
Flash forward. In Sisters and Husbands it's 10 years later and Beverly is engaged to be married. After a string of lovers, she's about to take a husband, or so it seems. By this time, though, Beverly has learned to accept life as a single woman and even to embrace it. She questions the necessity of marriage, especially since she's nearly past childbearing age. Plus, over the years she's seen the marriages of her sisters and girlfriends all fall apart, whether married 2 years or 20. Beverly's fiancé is the man of her dreams, but she's not convinced they need to marry. When Sisters and Husbands opens, she's got cold feet.
I went through a similar phase. I first got married in my twenties. It lasted less than a year. He wasn't the right man for me, and I got out. I couldn't understand how I could have been so mistaken about a man, and the experience soured me on marriage for years. But I've always liked the idea of marriage—companionship for life, a sex partner for life, raising children and growing old together. My parents had that. So 15 years later I decided to give marriage another try, and my husband and I are going on 10 years of marriage now.
With age, wisdom and experience maybe you can succeed where before you failed. (From the publisher.)
Sisters & Lovers [sold] 750,000 copies. [Now comes] the long-awaited sequel, Sisters & Husbands, with high hopes it will become a fixture in beach bags this summer. It's not all happily ever after for Briscoe's three fictional sisters, who live and love and bicker in the affluent, integrated suburbs of Washington, D.C., terrain the Washington native knows firsthand. There is Beverly, a journalist and serial runaway bride; unlucky-in-love Charmaine; and the seemingly perfect Evelyn, a married psychologist. In Husbands, the trio copes with cares and woes more commonly found on Wisteria Lane than in the housing projects of The Wire. Lawyer-husbands having midlife crises. Sassy spoiled stepdaughters. Ticking biological clocks. Sibling rivalry over $500 Prada handbags. The big theme in Sisters & Husbands is marriage, or "how do you keep it alive and fresh?"
What I appreciated most about the book was the practicality of the issues at hand. Briscoe considers real-life situations, like blended families, mid-life crisis, and the pre-wedding jitters that many people experience prior to their first marriage. Nothing seems far-fetched or unrealistic. Nonetheless, I did find the characters to be kind of on the mawkish side. Sometimes their emotional reactions to situations made them seem silly, almost corny and difficult to believe. However, the page-turning drama and the situations in the novel make this an easy, fun read. I did find myself pondering the idea and the institution of marriage. Buried in the drama and the sex and the fighting and the emotions of this novel are several questions: Are all people capable of cheating? Is being in love enough? What makes a marriage last? Although Briscoe doesn't exactly provide the answers to these questions, she certainly provides an interesting springboard for discussion in Sisters and Husbands, which is sure to be a summertime hit.
Alysa Hyman - African American Literature Book Club (aalbc.com)
1. For those who have read Sisters & Lovers, how have Beverly, Charmaine, and Evelyn grown or changed over the past ten years?
2. Which of the three sisters has grown the most? Which has grown the least?
3. Did Beverly make the right decision about whether or not to marry Julian? If so, why? If not, why not?
4. Do too many American women have unrealistic expectations of marriage? Do they expect marriage to be a perfect life, or like a fairy tale?
5. What are Beverly’s greatest strengths and weaknesses?
6. What are Charmaine’s greatest strengths and weaknesses?
7. What are Evelyn’s greatest strengths and weaknesses?
8. Which sister is your favorite and why?
9. Which sister is you least favorite and why?
10. Was Charmaine right to go to bat for her son Kenny, even at the risk of destroying her marriage?
11. Do you think that Beverly and Julian will last?
12. Do you think that Charmaine and Tyrone will last?
(Questions issued by publisher.)
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