Sister Carrie


Fiction - Literary
96 Pages
Reviewed on 05/17/2019
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Rich Follett for Readers' Favorite

Sister Carrie by William H. Coles is a touching family saga of love in the midst of clashing cultures. When young Carrie Broward is orphaned and taken in by her sister Jessie, she experiences a difficult adjustment to life in her sister’s community and finds comfort in a loving relationship with Zamel, a handsome and polite young man from Iran. When Carrie and Zamel’s love turns to marriage, family and cultural values clash, suspicions arise, and the resulting tensions educate and inspire in surprising and affirming ways.

Sister Carrie is filled to the brim with timely messages of love, healing, and tolerance in a world steeped in prejudice and ignorance. William H. Coles has packed a generous share of growth and healing into a narrative that hums along like clockwork, surprising and delighting at every turn. Coles’ characters are fresh, relevant, and alternately heartbreaking and inspiring. If we could all learn the lessons that Sister Carrie has to teach, the world would be a kinder and more compassionate place.

In Sister Carrie, William H. Coles has crafted a refreshing, healing family tale with love and compassion shining through even in the darkest moments. Sister Carrie shines a telling light on our societal tendency to make fear-based judgments when we encounter different ideas and different cultures and, in so doing, enlightens us all and shows us how we can fall short of our Christian ideals even when we have the best of intentions. Sister Carrie by William H. Coles is a gift of words for the world-weary soul.

Deborah Lloyd

The Broward parents, from Piedmont of North Carolina, died at the same time, leaving the adult and almost-adult family of four children. After the funeral and cleaning out the house and outbuildings, Henry returned to Arizona and Martha to Michigan. Jessie, in her twenties, had no choice but to take seventeen-year-old Carrie into her small apartment. Carrie had dropped out of high school earlier, and Jessie got Carrie a job at the local movie theater. Jessie’s intention was to follow her parents’ Christian principles in guiding Carrie, although she was involved with a married man. This intention was soon challenged by Carrie’s interest in Zamel, an Iranian who worked on computers and for the local funeral home. Jessie’s disapproval of this relationship and its many implications for Carrie’s life lies at the center of Sister Carrie, written by William H. Coles.

This short story is full of suspense and intrigue. It soon becomes apparent that Zamel has some secrets including involvement with unsavory characters. Carrie is not allowed into parts of his life. Yet, it is clear there is love and commitment in their relationship. Two other characters in the book, Reverend Luther Coffey and Harold Lester, strengthen the storylines of Jessie’s Christian beliefs and the intrigue of Zamel’s life. The book is well written and flows easily from event to event. The ending is unexpected, and it illustrates the themes of this fascinating story. Author William H. Coles has crafted a complex and engaging plot in Sister Carrie. An interesting read!

Romuald Dzemo

Sister Carrie by William H Coles is a psychological thriller that explores the themes of loss, grief, family, and a sister's struggle to keep her younger sister from harm. After the loss of their parents, none of the siblings wanted Carrie, so Jessie had no choice but to take in her younger sister, determined to bring Carrie up with their parents’ Christian principles and keep her innocent. As Carrie settles in, Jessie’s dream of a loving husband and a happy brood of her own children is forgotten and she knows deep down that Carrie will never leave. But when Jessie realizes that her sister has been having an affair with a political activist, with whom she has bonded over the internet, Jessie rejects her. She can’t imagine how Carrie can have a genuine relationship with someone much older than her and someone she spends time with mostly over the internet. But Carrie sees things differently. Can Jessie win the confidence of her sister and make Carrie believe Jessie wants her own good or is Jessie about to lose someone close to her heart again?

William H Coles crafts a story that focuses on the quarrel between two sisters, a novel with strong psychological hints. The characters are well imagined and skillfully developed. The author offers terrific descriptions of the characters, allowing readers to have a clear idea of the family dynamics. From the beginning, readers get clear images of what the sisters look like. Carrie Broward is “a tall, muscular girl with pretty facial features and short-cut straw-blond hair” and her sister Jessie Broward is “a full-figured woman with a close resemblance to her sister but with pecan shell-brown hair.” The conflict is introduced right off the bat, as the siblings share the belongings of their parents and think about who will take Carrie. It is evident that Carrie is a headstrong and free-spirited character and readers quickly want to see how she develops through the narrative. Sister Carrie is beautifully written, with prose that is exciting and characters that are memorable. In this novel, the author explores what it means to be a true sister.

K.C. Finn

Sister Carrie is a short work of literary fiction penned by author William H. Coles which focuses on relationships and psychology in a dangerous and destructive world. The novella features two sisters, orphaned and searching for acceptance in the wider world. When one sister begins a relationship online, the other older sister is filled with concern. She struggles with the parental role, feeling lost and lonely herself, and this struggle turns into a fraught tension between the pair as she views this affair and the man in question with a critical but somewhat naïve eye. All three of them seem headed for disaster throughout the tale.

Sister Carrie isn’t as developed and complex a tale as much of William H. Coles’s work is, but the story itself carries an intriguing message and some important questions following the reading experience. I found the dialogue particularly compelling in this novella, really telling of the relationship between the sisters and their psychological difficulties in being orphaned. The bond they share is well analyzed and torn apart by their circumstances, and the idea of compatibility in relationships is strongly foregrounded. As always, Coles produces very strong descriptions throughout that bring the tale to life, but the plot and actions of the characters are a little truncated due to the tale’s brisk pace, which may make the reading experience confusing for some. Overall, however, Sister Carrie is well written and innovative in its literary exploration of the nature of relationships, making it a rewarding read.

Lit Amri

After the death of her parents, Jessie Broward takes her 17-year-old sister Carrie under her care. Despite worrying about financial matters, Jessie, an optometrist assistant, gets Carrie a job at the movie theater and life is good for them. An Arab man named Zamel, however, challenges the sisters’ bond when Carrie falls in love and marries him without Jessie’s blessing. Failing her secret relationship with her own boss, Jessie feels lonely without Carrie whom she’s convinced is miserable in a marriage with a man who’s under the watchful eye of the authorities.

Sister Carrie by William H. Coles is a literary novella that examines the challenges of staying true to one's value and judging the adolescent love between two people deemed incompatible in rural southern America. The story takes a rather frank look into the familial bond and responsibility between two orphaned sisters as well as the changes in life that challenge their faith and trust towards the people around them. It has an intriguing plot that kept my interest from start to finish. That said, several aspects of the story might alienate some readers.

I found none of the characters particularly likable except for Jessie who's trying to be the surrogate parent to the best of her capability, despite her own problems and shortcomings. Another character, Harold Lester, has a slightly vague part in the story and I wished there was more to tell about his ‘investigation’. The ending is abrupt but nonetheless wonderful for a religiously and socially provocative tale. All in all, William H. Coles’s Sister Carrie is a slightly unusual but swift and interesting read.