Ann Brashares's Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books years ago, in pre-book blogging days. Since then, I was somewhat disappointed with her next effort, an adult novel titled The Last Summer (of You and Me). In fact, I didn't finish it. Brashares has also released a second adult novel called My Name is Memory which I haven't yet picked up. The plot sounds eerily similar to The Time Traveler's Wife -- which I liked, but don't necessarily want to repeat.
But then I heard that Brashares was releasing a follow-up to her Sisterhood novels, in adult rather than YA format. Although I was skeptical, given her other adult efforts, Brashares truly wrote a spectacular follow-up to her bestselling novels with Sisterhood Everlasting. Reading it was like diving back into a well-worn, comfortable place. In spite of a return to the same characters, Brashares manages to make the plot fresh and new.
Additionally, I feel that this is a novel that would appeal to many readers, not only those who have previously read and loved the Sisterhood novels. For one thing, it had been long enough that I only vaguely remembered the four main characters. While I did recall some details -- the long-ago trip to Greece, for instance -- Brashares provides just enough background that the novel reads seamlessly even with no previous knowledge of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants world.
Ten years after the close of the last novel, the four best friends -- all born within a month of one another -- have gone their separate ways. Bridget, or Bee as she's known to her friends, lives in San Francisco with her long-time boyfriend; Carmen has a successful television career in New York City; Lena is a professor at a college near NYC; and Tibby is living in Australia. Brashares shows each girl, now almost thirty, living her separate life. While all four are living the lives they've chosen, at times they miss one another -- especially Tibby, living on the other side of the world.
When three letters arrive, one for each girl in the U.S., they learn that Tibby has booked them a trip back to the magical place they visited so long ago. They each eagerly begin looking forward to Greece, and to rekindling their lifelong friendship. After they arrive, however, they are in for a surprise of the not-so-great variety. This plot twist sends the novel careening in a new direction altogether.
Tibby forces each friend to re-examine herself and her life. Although a learning experience, the journey each character must take is not without its heartache. What does each girl truly want out of life? And has she made the correct choices along the way so far?
Perhaps it was because my friends and I recently turned thirty ourselves (last fall), and probably because I have a close group of longtime friends, but I strongly related to the girls this time around. I was already in my twenties when I read the first four Sisterhood books. Although I really enjoyed them, I didn't necessarily identify with the characters, who were all teenagers in those books. Sisterhood Everlasting poses questions that women are asking themselves as they near thirty: is this the life I want for myself? If not, how can I change that?
Although at times deeply sad, Sisterhood Everlasting is ultimately full of hope and optimism. It is, as the girls think of Bridget, "a thing with feathers. . . . the thing that perches in the soul. . . . and never stops." In an interview at the novel's end, Brashares reports that, although she initially thought she was writing a closing for the Sisterhood girls, she now feels differently. She hopes to continue their journey into adulthood with future novels -- and I hope she does so, too.
Read an excerpt of Sisterhood Everlasting by clicking here. Ann Brashares can be found on Twitter, on Facebook, on Tumblr, and on her blog. The Sisterhood novels have, of course, been made into two major motion pictures. I haven't seen either one, but perhaps I should!