Title: The Canterbury Sisters
Author: Kim Wright
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release Date: May 19th, 2015
Length: 336 pages | 9 hours, 40 minutes
Source: Borrowed from my local library
Che Milan’s life is falling apart. Not only has her longtime lover abruptly dumped her, but her eccentric, demanding mother has recently died. When an urn of ashes arrives, along with a note reminding Che of a half-forgotten promise to take her mother to Canterbury, Che finds herself reluctantly undertaking a pilgrimage.
Within days she joins a group of women who are walking the sixty miles from London to the shrine of Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, reputed to be the site of miracles. In the best Chaucer tradition, the women swap stories as they walk, each vying to see who can best describe true love. Che, who is a perfectionist and workaholic, loses her cell phone at the first stop and is forced to slow down and really notice the world around her, perhaps for the first time in years.
Through her adventures along the trail, Che finds herself opening up to new possibilities in life and discovers that the miracles of Canterbury can take surprising forms.
Women’s Literature isn’t my usual genre, so I suspect the things about this book that kept me at arm’s length might not be a road block for others. Overall, it was an okay book. The protagonist, Che, is difficult to like- until the final few chapters she’s basically a hugely judgmental bitch. She gives no one any compassion and she’s quite self-important. But of course she’s meant to be grating, so she can have an arc by the end when she blossoms into a slightly more decent and patient person. She also goes from being overly scheduled and scared of silence to being a bit more comfortable in her own skin. That’s a noble character arc, it was just difficult for me to want to follow along…until about midway through.
Of course, the clever part of this is that each of the characters tells a story, mirroring the setup of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, where each character also tells a story. In this, the stories are largely about the women themselves. I was delighted that Eros and Psyche, and Gawain and the Loathsome Lady were the two fictional tales told by characters- two myths/legends that I adore. And the other characters’ stories, more than their actions and reactions in the narrative, were engaging in that “let me figure out this character” kind of way.
Although I would never be a pilgrim myself, I have looked at visiting Canterbury while we’re in the UK. The cathedral seems to be focal point of the town, and so it leant an appropriate somber air at the end of the book, when Che arrives.
I listened to the audiobook, and the narration was solid (even though the accents were a bit off) with good audio production quality. Overall, I recommend it for fans of Women’s Literature, especially the kind that deals with adult mother/daughter relationships, grief, and getting over a fear of connection (and vulnerability).