Due to moving in July, and having LASIK surgery and my kitty Dax crossing the rainbow bridge in August, this is the first time I’ve read my IRL book club’s book and attended the discussion. I’m glad I was able to go.
We met in-person last Wednesday evening to discuss September’s book, THE GOOD SISTER by Sally Hepworth. There were eight of us who met together and we all read the book. Here are some highlights of our discussion:
- A few of us guessed the twist early on. Two of them thought it ruined the suspense and thrill of the story and didn’t enjoy the story as much after that.
- Even though I also guessed the twist early, it didn’t ruin the suspense or thrill for me. Instead of anticipating this, I anticipated how the resolution came about (if there is one) or how the characters will react to the big reveal and how it will affect what they do next.
- The rest of the group really enjoyed the book, didn’t see the twist coming, and were surprised all around by what happened.
- All of us thought the characters were well-developed and round, including the secondary characters.
- All of us loved the one sister–her personality and character, especially her growth arc. View Spoiler »We really liked how Hepworth handled Fern’s neurodivergence and that most of the characters surrounding her helped her grow, played to her strengths, and learned to accept her as is. « Hide Spoiler
- A few of us didn’t like the last chapter. We thought it was overkill. One person even suggested that it felt like the ending to Hitchcock’s PSYCHO.
Before I went to book club, I hemmed and hawed about going. I worried about sharing some of my views. I didn’t want people to discount my thoughts on Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) because of thinking I was being too sensitive. One person said she thought it didn’t perpetuate the stigma like I did, which is fine. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. And, after two others members who have first-hand experience working with mental illness and/or BPD validated my views, I think it helped with understanding where I was coming from more.
*steps on soapbox* I talked about this in my review, and I think it’s worth stating again. Hepworth diagnoses the one sister as narcissistic or possible BPD. Based on the character’s actions and thoughts, it’s clear, however, Hepworth didn’t really understand either mental illness or how they manifest in real life. She probably saw a list of criteria and decided they fit, or she read the criteria and wrote the character with her limited understanding. (This is why there’s a need for sensitivity readers and/or own voices authors.)
Even though Hepworth’s diagnosis isn’t definite (“possible”), it does perpetuate the stigma associated with BPD, an already very stigmatized disorder. People with BPD are often perceived as being violent. This comes from one of the possible diagnosis criteria of having, and maybe a hard time controlling, irrational anger. Some people present anger outward in the form of yelling, screaming, throwing things, etc. Others, like me, present anger inward by directing the emotion at ourselves. (I rarely present anger outward.) When people with BPD act on violent urges, it’s normally in the form of self-harm or suicidal ideation. Of course, some of the people who present anger outward may also be violent against others. BPD, though, usually isn’t the actual cause of that kind of violence. BPD’s often diagnosed with other disorders. The most common are mood, eating, and substance abuse disorders. The combined presentations of these disorders MAY create a perfect storm of having and acting on outward violent urges.
Having BPD simply means that our emotions are more extreme than the general population. The difference between BPD and Bipolar Disorder is the duration of the highs and lows. BPD’s are shorter (i.e., minutes, hours, possibly days) than Bipolar’s (i.e., days, weeks, possibly months). Regulating our emotions is much more difficult with the extremes, which is why we often come across as whiny, needy, petty, or having a thin skin. Learning very specific coping skills in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is crucial for our well-being. *steps off soapbox*
Needless to say, we had a very interesting discussion about mental illness, BPD, neurodivergence, and society’s role in how we perceive and treat those with mental illness. It was very affirming to receive validation instead of the “you’re too sensitive about this” reaction.
I wish I could report on everything we discussed. Due to the nature of a psychological thriller, however, I can’t report on all the details without spoiling you. Hopefully, I’ve done a good enough job to make this post interesting and still let you experience THE GOOD SISTER on your own if you want to read it.
Next month, we’re reading FEED by Mira Grant (Seanan McGuire). I’ve been anticipating this book ever since someone nominated it as a possible book for book club. I’ve heard mixed reviews, but they’ve been generally positive.
Anyway, have you read THE GOOD SISTER? If so, what do you think about my book club’s discussion about it?