3 out of 4 stars
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With the voice of the modern woman, Michelle Cummings plunges her readers into the world of fly fishing in her novel, The Reel Sisters. At times sassy, at times humble, The Reel Sisters is sure to appeal to a broad-sweeping, mature female audience.
Sophie, Rose, Amanda, Veronica and Melody have two things in common: they’re all women, and they love to fly fish. In the company of their sisters, each of these women reflect deeply upon the hidden meanings swimming beneath the surface of their lives, reeling in the truths that has each of them hooked. The everyday drama that they face alone ultimately ties them together, and the material that binds them is fishing wire.
Michelle Cummings does an elegant job of revealing the depths available in fly fishing and demonstrates it to be another zen sport such as surfing or motorcycle repair. As a reader, I got a strong taste of the satisfaction of tying one’s own flies, the dream-like swooping arc of a line being cast, and the visceral delight of a strong fish pulling at the other end of one’s rod. At the beginning of the book I had very little interest in the sport of fly fishing; by its end, I can assuredly say that I would spring at the chance of spending a few hours with a rod and some flies on the edge of a river.
While the characters were satisfyingly deep and differentiated, their voices were remarkably similar. The Reel Sisters is written entirely in the first-person and from the individual perspectives of each of the five sisters, which is a storytelling device that is uncommonly used. I would have liked to see this device highlighted more powerfully and used to a fuller potential with more individuality apparent in each of the women’s voices.
On this note of narrative voice, there were a few sentences here and there that fell apart in their logical structure. For example, the word “sarcastically” is used incorrectly a few times. I was able to pick up on what Cummings was getting at for the most part, but these moments felt awkward and pulled me out of the narrative when I would have much rather been swept along by totally convincing prose.
Lastly, in the 8th section of the book the drama reaches a peak with Amanda’s plot-line. I’ll avoid saying too much here so as not to spoil the end, but I will say is that this dramatic event felt oddly out of place, and it seems to me that Amanda acts out of character. It's reminiscent of a Hallmark film: cheesy and over-dramatized. I feel that Rose’s secret does a much better job of illustrating the themes brought about by this event, those themes being the unpredictable nature of what one might reel into one’s life and how one’s reaction can drastically change the end result. In my opinion, if Rose’s secret were explored with more depth and Amanda’s drama dropped, the narrative would have resonated more powerfully and possibly have earned it 4 stars.
Nevertheless, I will give The Reel Sisters a full 3 out of 4 stars. As a story, it’s full of vitality, and the solidness of its metaphor and its depth of scope contribute largely to the book’s success. With a bit more polishing, it could easily become a classic.
The Reel Sisters
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