“The Sunshine Sisters” (Berkley) by Jane Green
From the outside, Ronni Sunshine was the beautiful movie star fans adored. But to her three daughters, Nell, Meredith and Lizzy, she was aloof and self-absorbed. Now that she is facing the end of her life and would like some assistance on the dying front, her past is creeping up on her.
Jane Green’s latest novel, “The Sunshine Sisters,” begins in the early ’80s when Ronni emerges onto the Hollywood scene. The book continues through the decades and features the highlight reel from her daughters’ lives. We see them progress through high school, first jobs, first loves and at least one affair. As they age, they grow further away from their parents and each other, and each daughter’s unique way of dealing with Ronni’s narcissistic nature becomes evident. Nell embraces a simple, albeit lonely, life; Meredith chases approval from anyone who will dole it out; and Lizzy follows in her mother’s footsteps regarding relationships and stardom.
The daughters’ lives are interrupted when their mother beckons them home to Connecticut to help her on a project of sorts, involving reconciliation, forgiveness and possibly a suicide. There is a problem with the plan, though. While Lizzy, Meredith and Nell harbor plenty of distaste toward their mother (and at times, each other), they aren’t ready for a death in the family.
All three daughters play a distinct part in the family unit: the spoiled baby, the people-pleasing middle child and the independent oldest. However, once reunited with each other and their mother, the unfamiliar terrain provides the trio with neatly packaged opportunities to break free from their roles.
With clear prose and a straightforward plot, Green spins a breezy story despite tackling the thorny subject of one’s right to die.