This novel of sisters struggling to find peace after a terrible accident alters their future provides lessons in New Age beliefs of detachment and fulfillment.
On the premises of Sunnyside Up, a funeral home and chicken farm in a rural hamlet in Kentucky, elderly Adelaide Somers and her younger sister Felicity live out a dynamic forged early in their childhood: Felicity is the elfin, sweet one, Adelaide the bossier and earthier sister. Felicity’s communications with generations of their dearly departed family drives Adelaide crazy; Adelaide’s constant misery compels Felicity to drag her to lectures on the benefits of transformative energy.
Each woman recalls, in bits and pieces, a past event that profoundly affected them, their parents and neighbors. Readers begin to understand what’s going on via the sisters’ internal monologues and draft obituaries, composed by a part-time employee, of everyone Sunnyside Up ever buried—unpublished exposés of the clients’ quirks and peccadilloes that are inserted between the chapters. After Adelaide’s near-fatal fall from the second-story window of their home, the full story is revealed, and the sisters find a path to forgiveness and release from their shared trauma.
This touching portrait of sisters bound by blood and tragedy is a colorful, creative way to explain New Age ideas, such as how to transition from one world to the next. The lecturer Felicity adores and Adelaide resists forces Felicity to acknowledge, “You have control over your bondage. But willful bondage is the hardest to release.”
Felicity’s eccentricities and positivity are delightful; Adelaide’s misery and misogyny make her more difficult to enjoy. Unfortunately, the plot moves slowly, scattering hints as to the big reveal at the end like a farmer’s wife casually feeding the hens, and the multitude of characters are hard to keep straight.
Nonetheless, readers will enjoy the sisters’ complex, fractious relationship and the amusing Kentucky bourbon-laced flavor, and learn from the inspirational passages on breaking free of the bonds that diminish our potential.