2 out of 4 stars
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The Reel Sisters by Michelle Cummings gives us an insight into the lives of five friends who are brought together by their shared love of fly fishing. This book focuses heavily on the friendship between these women, as well as the intricacies of fly fishing.
The book is light on plot, but after being spoon-fed the relevant (and irrelevant) backstories for our main characters, it kicks off with the leading ladies pulling a young, naked girl out of a river. This young woman, named Melody, slowly becomes an important member of the fishing gang over the course of the book, but that is not necessarily what The Reel Sisters is about.
So, what is the book about then? Friendship is most certainly the key theme. As for what kind of story you can expect? Well, our characters fish and talk and fish and talk, and for a book mainly about fishing and talking, the author kept me relatively interested.
The most interesting aspect of the The Reel Sisters is its changing character perspectives. Different chapters are narrated by different ‘sisters’ (Sophie, Veronica, Amanda, Rose, and Melody) in the first person, effectively giving the reader an insight into how each of these women function individually. Personally, I thought Melody was the most fascinating character, and the author does a good job of capturing her ‘fish-out-of-water’ personality. There was, however, one character (Veronica) who just never clicked with me. She had the least to do and had the least interesting problems and history, compared to the other women. I feel like she could’ve been excluded from the novel at no cost to its enjoyment.
Michelle Cummings displays a deft hand for description writing. Her words paint both serene and frightening pictures of nature, and she fares well in describing the process of fly fishing to the reader. As someone who has never seen the act of fly fishing, I feel like I understand the sport now.
Unfortunately, The Reel Sisters does suffer a few grating problems. One such issue is the novel’s lack of conflict. There is no drama in this book to keep you turning pages. During the rare occasions when our characters do get fired up, the author quashes the tension by resolving it way too soon, or by having the drama leave no lasting consequences. The author is simply too easy on her characters and it makes for a boring read. This lack of conflict leads to a lack of story, which leads to a lack of character motivations, or character arcs.
Secondly, there’s the matter of the voluminous, bad dialogue. Entire pages are filled with extremely dull tête-à-têtes or group discussions. The worst is being told information we already know through this dialogue; the author has a bad habit of feeding us the same thing over and over, and while it might be true to how real-life conversations flow, it is frustrating to read. There are instances in the book where a character will go off by herself and have an experience. She will then relay this experience to her friend, who will relay this again to another friend! It’s exhausting to read, especially when a lot of the dialogue is quite robotic.
Finally, this book is overwhelmingly positive. Key word: ‘overwhelmingly’. This is partly because of the lack of conflict, and partly due to the dialogue. Our characters are relentlessly supportive of one another, and irksome in their positivity. They are repeatedly thankful for having each other, praising each other’s fishing abilities, looking forward to seeing each other again, delighting in each other’s cooking skills… the list goes on. I don’t want to come across as someone who hates happiness in books, but it becomes quite saccharine as the novel progresses. This level of positivity isn’t believable, and I found myself praying for a serious conflict that would actually test the friendship of these women, but it never came.
I give this book 2 out of 4 stars. Some parts of this book had me tempted to give it only one star, but the odd interesting character and some inspiring passages of descriptive writing, as well as the author’s brave use of the difficult technique of alternating perspectives redeemed it slightly. However, stiff, drab dialogue, a lack of conflict, story, and character arcs, as well as a maddeningly positive attitude really hurt my overall enjoyment of this book.
The Reel Sisters
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