Memories are at the core of what it means to be human. To have lived and loved. To have triumphed and failed. To have changed and still remained so much the same. Memories bind us to family, friends and places. Memories make us who we are.
But that’s exactly what Colleen (Lena to her family) Donahue wants to do. Forget her cheating ex-fiancé, Walter. Forget her sister Hallie was the one she caught kissing him on the morning of their wedding. And forget that her mother has always loved her two siblings more than her.
In the ten years since leaving Watersend, South Carolina, Colleen has reinvented herself as a successful travel writer. The trips around the world—to exotic locales and those more mundane—keep her from forming any real relationships, and that’s just fine with her. After Hallie and Walter’s betrayal (and subsequent marriage complete with two adorable daughters Colleen has never met), she can’t risk trusting her heart to anyone. But when her father is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, she returns home to help the family she all but abandoned ten years before.
Colleen soon realizes that her family is just as tightknit as she remembers. Only now, she feels like an outsider. Her brother Shane has taken over the family pub as well as responsibility for their dad’s rapidly declining health. Hallie is busy planning their dad’s surprise sixtieth birthday party while raising her daughters and pretending to be happily married to the man her sister once loved. And her dad slips from lucidity to confusion in the blink of an eye.
Despite their strained relationship, the Donohue siblings are determined to preserve their dad’s past through photographs and stories. When key milestones in his life don’t add up to the history he’s always told them, Colleen begins to question what she really knows about his life—and her own childhood. And the answers she uncovers will shake her family to its core.
There is a beautiful and poignant irony in Colleen’s desperation to forget her past while her dad’s memories slip away more every day. Patti Callahan Henry tackles the realities of Alzheimer’s with painful honesty, revealing the heartbreaking sense of loss the disease inflicts not just on the one diagnosed but on the loved ones as well. (As my 95-year-old grandmother is currently in the late stages of Alzheimer’s, I felt so much of this story personally. How you live for those moments of clarity when you recognize the person you love before they’re stolen away again.)
Patti’s gorgeous prose, vivid Lowcountry setting, and perfectly crafted characters will have you falling in love with The Favorite Sister within pages. And by book’s end, you’ll feel like one of the family.
The Favorite Daughter is now available.
About Patti Callahan Henry