The Story Sisters

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Summary and reviews of The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman

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Feminist Book Review: The Story Sisters

Recent updates. The Story Sisters. Description Creators Details Reviews Each of three sisters—Elv, Claire, and Meg—has a fate she must meet alone: one on a country road, one in the streets of Paris, and one in the corridors of her own imagination. Inhabiting their world are a charismatic man who cannot tell the truth, a neighbor who is not who he appears to be, a clumsy boy in Paris who falls in love and stays there, a detective who finds his heart's desire, and a demon who will not let go. The rape is revealed in snapshots—singular lines haunting the narrative and the childhood experiences of these three sisters.

He speeds away, leaving year-old Elv behind. She runs after the car, places her hands on the window, and screams at him to let her sister go; he pulls her into the car. Elv tells her sister to run, and as Claire gets out, Elv is taken by the man, a teacher, to his home.

She is tied, tortured, and raped for an entire day. Elv is forced to use her smarts to run away; and although she physically escapes this maniac, she never emotionally escapes the experience. It defines her, how she sees herself, and how she looks at the world and the people around her. That is how rape works.

What is most disturbing about this rape, other than the actual act, is how it tangles like a vine, suffocating and disfiguring not only Elv, but her sisters also. Even though only one girl is raped, all three sisters suffer in ways that an adult would find difficult to unravel, let alone an year-old. No one knows about it except for Elv and her sister, Claire. And for the next five years, Hoffman realistically and poignantly portrays how this slight girl grapples with what happened to her on her own—without any help from her mother or any other adults in her life.

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No one knows who she is or what she has done to save her sister. Her sacrifice is a dirty little secret that she has to suffer until she is as twisted and mangled as the treacherous man who undid her.

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And she is undone: she creates a world of faeries and demons—a world with a secret language that she teaches her sisters. She escapes to this world whenever she feels alone or betrayed by the humans in her own world.

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Everyone sees her spiraling out of control; her mother sees her, but does nothing—nothing relevant. She does not see that her daughter is suffering, not just acting out. It makes me think of kids whose parents are present without being present. Children are raped every day and parents have no clue. They let them go to sleepovers or parties without really knowing the parents at those homes.