Cover image for Sister : a novel
Sister : a novel
Lewis, Jim.
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Publication Information:
Saint Paul : Graywolf Press, [1993]

Physical Description:
205 pages ; 22 cm
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Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Wilson is not a typical 17-year-old and this is not a typical novel. Orphaned and solitary, Wilson abandons school for the open road, bumming around until he lands a gardening job on the extensive grounds of a wealthy family with two young daughters, Olivia and Marian. He makes a home for himself beneath their gazebo, and, madly in love with Olivia, spends his days tending the suddenly wild, untamable garden, and his nights watching over the gently dreaming object of his devoted, otherworldly affection. This is an enrapturing and surreal fairy tale cleverly built upon an elegant structure of biblical and Shakespearean underpinnings. As Wilson and Olivia finally consummate their clandestine love in this mid-American Eden, their protective innocence is lost, and banishment becomes inevitable. In Wilson, Lewis has conjured a monster and a mystery; a Caliban tied to an enchanted, landlocked island; a green man with magical powers; a noble savage; a force of nature; a trickster; and a fool. We are held spellbound by Lewis' scrupulously measured and charmed prose, and the inexplicable occurrences and overwhelmingly fecund sensuality it describes. A rare and magical interpretation of the enigma of desire and the omnipotence of the life force. ~--Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Haunting and poetic, this remarkable first novel of teenage love and alienation reimagines The Tempest from Caliban's point of view. Narrator Wilson, a 17-year-old newly arrived from Nebraska in an unnamed Louisiana city, has been an outsider all his life and easily fits into the role of lone observer. Sent by a landscape company to tend the property of a family named Miller, he immediately appropriates their garden as his own and soon, like Caliban, is spying on them--Holiday and Anne, their daughters Marian and Olivia--and living beneath their gazebo. Eventually taking up residence in their basement, he stealthily watches the Millers' dramas and protectively eyes the garden. Then one night he reveals his passion to Olivia; they become lovers and her resulting pregnancy sparks the novel's extreme conclusion in which the Prospero-like Holiday is compelled to destroy the upper-middle-class idyll he has created. Lewis's descriptive language is charged with the complex, enigmatic personality of his narrator, who is far more than just a noble savage--indeed, there is a good deal of Prospero in Wilson as well as in Holiday. (``I'm a magician,'' the boy declares. ``My mother was a witch, a Sycorax of the North Plains.'') Delicately balancing moods, the author infuses the novel with a young lover's optimistic sense that anything is possible, yet scatters portents throughout that a happy ending is unlikely. ( May ) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

At age 17, the orphaned Wilson leaves his Nebraska home and heads South. Eventually, he finds work--and a sense of belonging--as a gardener on an estate owned by Holiday Miller, a lawyer with a compliant wife and two lovely daughters. He even lives in an abandoned gazebo on the property until Miller burns him out. Having lost both his home and his job, Wilson hides out in the basement of the Miller house, insinuating himself unseen into the household and beginning an affair with younger daughter Olivia. Though Wilson initially sees himself more as guardian of the garden than interloper, his presence is subtly disturbing, and he eventually brings about the family's ruin. More intent on mood than plot, this lyrical, refreshingly different first novel is occasionally pretentious, and it's not always plausible--but that's not the point. In parable form, Lewis offers a pointed critique of the alienated American family, devising a sort of Americanized magical realism to express his characters' dismay. Recommended for most collections; Lewis is someone to watch.-- Barbara Hoffert, ``Library Journal'' (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.