Kellye Garrett, Like a Sister (2022) Read May 2023.


Suppose you deeply love your half-sister, Desiree, someone you’ve grown up with and been close to for most of your twenty-eight years. But two years ago you despaired about her self-destructive lifestyle and cut off all contact. Less painful, you believed, than watching her hedonistic pursuit of ruin.

Then one day you see a newspaper headline: “Former Reality Star Desiree Pierce Found Dead in Lingerie in Bronx with Cocaine and No Shoes.” The playground where her body was found is in your neighborhood, not her neighborhood. You don’t believe the police theory that it was an accidental overdose. And you think Desiree must have been coming to see you. She must have needed you.

Are you being reasonable or are you in denial? Is this your feeling of guilt controlling your mind?

You need to learn the truth about her death.

This is the plight of Lena Scott.

A secondary but closely related plot line involves Lisa’s conflict with her and Desiree’s father, Mel Pierce, a famous hip-hop producer, who has been pretty much out of Lisa’s life since she was small.

The novel moves well. The plot is elaborate and well-structured, although I worked to keep the backstory straight. Much of it is presented via Instagram posts from various times in the past, posts that are not in chronological order. Other than that, Garrett’s writing is good throughout the book, and in some cases it’s outstanding. Here’s a scene backstage at Madison Square Garden, where Lisa is trying to make contact with a big star whom she knows:

I saw the mass.

The energy is different when there’s a celebrity in the room. There’s this crackling undercurrent everyone feels even if they don’t acknowledge it. Even if no one is looking directly at the star—and at events like these they never are—everyone is aware of their presence. The air surrounding me suddenly felt rich. I was in the presence of fame and fortune.

The mass came toward me, a headsetted blonde up front playing Pied Piper to a group of Black men of all shapes and sizes. The tall, beefy one in the lead was constantly looking around—the bodyguard. The others weren’t nearly as tall or as anxious, their energy directed not out but in, at a lone person I couldn’t make out.

But I didn’t have to. I knew who it was.

Garrett’s characters are interesting and engaging. We share their friendships and loves, their angers and conflicts.

At the beginning of the novel, I wasn’t sure that I would enjoy being immersed in the lives of big-spender, entertainment-industry, wild-lifestyle people. And I’ve become cautious about first-person narrators after a number experiences with narrators who blather on about themselves, who hype their reactions to events, who over-tell their backstory, and who try too hard to be witty and snarky. But Lisa won me over. She’s a fresh voice of restraint who doesn’t buy into the flamboyant lifestyle of the rich and famous. We get her witty comments, we get her feelings and reactions, we learn what we need to know about her. But her telling is controlled and readable.


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