Sisters & Husbands, the long-awaited sequel to Sisters & Lovers, opens with our heroine getting cold feet the day before her wedding. Beverly Jordan’s problem isn’t with her fiancé, Julian, a smart, loving, computer animator with whom she’s deeply in love. The reason for her skittishness is the apparent collapse of her sisters’ marriages, especially that of her older sister Evelyn, whose long marriage to Kevin has inexplicably gone south. Beverly’s other sister, Charmaine, is in such a power struggle with her spoiled stepdaughter over the attentions of her husband, Tyrone, that their marriage, too, is shaky. With role models like these, one shouldn’t be surprised if the cold feet of a woman hours away from her wedding turn to blocks of ice.

Despite all the angst, Connie Briscoe writes with good humor, a lightness of touch and, best of all, a deep understanding of her characters; and it doesn’t hurt that there’s a delicious, jaw-dropping twist about half way through the novel. The sisters are good women, kind, sensible and empathetic, though Briscoe doesn’t hesitate to show their flaws. Beverly can be gullible; Evelyn, who likes to show off her affluence with things like Fendi handbags, has taken her marriage for granted; and Charmaine can be catty, though her compassion for her stepdaughter, husband, and son is what allows them to hang together as a family. The sisters aren’t above sniping at each other, though their bond, in the end, is unbreakable. Briscoe surrounds them with equally believable characters that the reader grows to care for—with the exception of one miscreant who turns out to be dispensable anyway. The Jordan sisters’ parents are solid and hardworking and their kids are smart and well-behaved even through all the trauma. Though Charmaine and Evelyn’s husbands are exasperating, they, too, have their reasons: Kevin’s going through one of those midlife crises, and Tyrone is guilt-ridden over his divorce from his daughter’s mother and the fact that he doesn’t see her that often.

Sisters & Husbands celebrates the sometimes-overstretched ties of modern family life.

Arlene McKanic is a freelance writer who lives in Jamaica, New York.

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