Sometimes we read a book and sometimes we disappear into another world. Cathy Lamb’s novel, The Language of Sisters (Kensington Publishing Co.) is the latter. This story took me from Russia to Oregon and back again, through the tangles of family and the veracity of the statement “The truth will set you free.”
This is the tale of a Russian, close-knit, witty and brilliant clan, the Kozlovsky family, who escape the horror of Communism and the KGB in Russia but can’t escape the memories. As they build a new life in Oregon they each must find a new life. But leaving the country does not mean leaving the secrets. We meet them twenty-five years after their escape.
The Language of Sisters is narrated by the daughter, Antonia (Toni), a crime writer and self-proclaimed “secret-keeper.” She lives on a two-story tugboat she renovated. At a low point in her life, Toni is asking herself “What next?” The interesting and varied characters living on the same pier fill the story with color, especially Daisy, an older woman slipping into dementia. Toni’s witty and wise voice takes us through the memories of their past as we meet the other sisters and adopted brother.
The second sister, Valeria (Valerie) is a fiery courtroom attorney, married with two children and facing a harrowing trial against a murderer. She has every right to be frightened. The third sister, Elvira (Ellie) is engaged to an Italian man that their mother does not approve of her marrying (these scenes are really funny). Ellie is having the kind of panic attacks that make her breathe into a paper bag, as Toni tell us, “We are a trio of problems.” Then there is the adopted brother they brought with them from Russia. Secrets surround him like smoke. What actually happened on that shocking and bloody night in Russia?
As the family in The Language of Sisters attempts to thrive in their new life under the weight of past horrors, we come to know them all as intimate friends. Quirky characters join the raucous family and in Lamb’s expert hands we are dropped into every scene with wit and detail. We feel as if we are there with the Kozlovsky family in the restaurant they run where dishes are named after moments in their life. Lamb’s expert ear and eye for detail bring us closer to the family.
Then there is the heart of the novel – the sisters can hear each other’s thoughts, “We can hear each other, inside our heads when something is wrong, or when something is especially beautiful. Now and then we can feel each other.” This fascinating premise brings us ever closer to the intricate internal lives of the siblings as they struggle to overcome the past and keep memories at bay –which is never fully possible and brings the story to its climax.
With delicious romantic tension, Toni’s heart grows toward a DEA agent but not without a struggle. The humor weaved into the harsher aspects of the story allow us to breathe through the tough parts that the characters (and we) must suffer and acknowledge to gain freedom and a new life. This novel portrays, in powerful language, the strength of family to pull us through, to madden and encourage, to love and to confront.
Now, come and meet the Kozlovsky family in The Language of Sisters.
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ABOUT CATHY LAMB:
Cathy Lamb drinks too much coffee and daydreams endlessly. That’s how she writes her books. She is the author of many novels, including 2016’s The Language of Sisters. Connect with Cathy on Goodreads, her Amazon author page and her website.