Sister Mine: A refreshingly unique stand-alone fantasy

Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson fantasy book reviewsSister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson fantasy book revewsSister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson’s Sister Mine (2013) is a refreshingly unique stand-alone fantasy novel featuring characters, settings, and situations that you’ve never seen before. Makeda and her twin sister Abby were conjoined at birth. Now that they are separated, they each suffer some sort of loss. Abby’s loss is obvious — her body isn’t formed quite right and she has some physical deficits. Makeda’s loss is less obvious — she does not have the mojo that her sister got from their unusual parents… or so she thinks.

Desperate to get out from under the wing of her protective twin sister, Makeda is moving into her own apartment. She wants to live her own life in a world where she doesn’t feel like she’s malformed. But in her new apartment complex, she meets an attractive young man who may have his own sort of mojo, and then her father disappears and it may be Makeda’s fault. As Makeda and Abby try to set things right, Makeda discovers that she may not be able to escape her weird family and she learns a lot more about them and, most importantly, some shocking things about herself.

There were many aspects of Sister Mine that I really loved — the unique characters (ever seen conjoined twins in a fantasy novel before?), the Canadian setting (yet Caribbean feel), the celebration of music, the juxtaposition of the magical with the mundane, and the protagonist’s struggle to find her own identity. Also, Hopkinson’s lovely prose and wit. Makeda makes a sympathetic character — she’s vulnerable and needy, yet strong-willed and determined to make her own way. I liked her most of the time, though occasionally I thought she was more immature than she should have been at her age.

Hopkinson’s plot is sometimes bizarre and it’s pretty “loose,” meaning that not everything that happened seemed important to the overall story and some of it is silly.

There was one aspect of the novel that really turned me off, but to mention it would be a spoiler, so if you want to know about it, highlight the following text: Makeda and Abby have an incestuous relationship. This grossed me out. I feel like this was not necessary for the story but I may be wrong about that. The sisters are descended from gods and Hopkinson may have meant to show us their nonchalance about the kinds of activities humans find taboo. I enjoyed the story despite this, but would have enjoyed it more without.

I listened to LLC Dreamscape Media’s audio edition of Sister Mine which was excellently narrated by Robin Miles. It’s 11.5 hours long.

Published in 2013. As the only one in the family without magic, Makeda has decided to move out on her own and make a life for herself among the claypicken humans. But when her father goes missing, Makeda will have to find her own power — and reconcile with her twin sister, Abby — if she’s to have a hope of saving him… We’d had to be cut free of our mother’s womb. She’d never have been able to push the two-headed sport that was me and Abby out the usual way. Abby and I were fused, you see. Conjoined twins. Abby’s head, torso and left arm protruded from my chest. But here’s the real kicker; Abby had the magic, I didn’t. Far as the Family was concerned, Abby was one of them, though cursed, as I was, with the tragic flaw of mortality. SISTER MINE. Now adults, Makeda and Abby still share their childhood home. The surgery to separate the two girls gave Abby a permanent limp, but left Makeda with what feels like an even worse deformity: no mojo. The daughters of a celestial demigod and a human woman, Makeda and Abby were raised by their magical father, the god of growing things — an unusual childhood that made them extremely close. Ever since Abby’s magical talent began to develop, though, in the form of an unearthly singing voice, the sisters have become increasingly distant. Today, Makeda has decided it’s high time to move out and make her own life among the other nonmagical, claypicken humans — after all, she’s one of them. In Cheerful Rest, a run-down warehouse, Makeda finds exactly what she’s been looking for: a place to get some space from Abby and begin building her own independent life. There’s even a resident band, led by the charismatic (and attractive) building superintendent. But when her father goes missing, Makeda will have to find her own talent–and reconcile with Abby–if she’s to have a hope of saving him…

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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One comment

  1. I love the way her work evokes the Caribbean while giving us a realistic Canadian setting. I think I would like this one.

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