The Sullivan Sisters by Kathryn Ormsbee Review

Summary (from the publisher):

image001Time changes things.

That painful fact of life couldn’t be truer for the Sullivan sisters. Once, they used to be close, sharing secrets inside homemade blanket castles. Now, life in the Sullivan house means closed doors and secrets left untold. 

Fourteen-year-old Murphy, an aspiring magician, is shocked by the death of Siegfried, her pet turtle. Seventeen-year-old Claire is bound for better things than her Oregonian hometown—until she receives a crushing rejection from her dream college. And eighteen-year-old Eileen is nursing a growing addiction in the wake of life-altering news.

Then, days before Christmas, a letter arrives, informing the sisters of a dead uncle and an inheritance they knew nothing about. The news forces them to band together in the face of a sinister family mystery…and, possibly, murder.


My Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

I’m always on the hunt for books starring sisters, which led me to Kathryn Ormsbee’s latest book, The Sullivan Sisters. I really enjoyed Kathryn Ormsbee’s Tash Hearts Tolstoy back in 2017, so I was excited to pick up another book of her’s. The Sullivan Sisters follows sisters Eileen, Claire, & Murphy. The three had a tight-knit relationship when they were younger – which included setting up a blanket & pillow fort during Christmas while their mom was at work- but family circumstances have led them to fall apart over the years. When the sisters receive a letter about an inheritance from an unknown uncle, the three travel to the house left in their name while discovering some family secrets. 

Although the murder mystery is central to the plot, The Sullivan Sisters is much more of a character driven story than mystery. 


Totally unrelated to my review thoughts, but I just have to take a moment to profess my love for The Sullivan Sisters’ cover! I love the illustrated flowers. It reminds me so much of an adult coloring book that I want to break out my colored pencils. I love how the flower pattern continues on to its end pages. I also think the illustrated  cover models really capture each sister, including the actual clothes they wear in the story. 


I was so excited to read The Sullivan Sisters because I am the oldest of three girls myself. Set around Christmas time, the book alternates between the past and present. Nearly all of the scenes set in the past revolve around the girls building their blanket fort while their mom works during the holidays, but as the years go on, the girls grow apart. These scenes were cute and heart-warming at first, but definitely less so as the girls grow apart. Everyone knows that I love holiday-themed books or books that even briefly mention the holidays. However, I didn’t understand why the book necessarily had to be set at Christmas. Yes the holiday brings on a memories of the girls building their blanket castle and the times when they actually felt like sisters, but it didn’t really add much else to the story. 

Overall The Sullivan Sisters was unfortunately a miss for me. I just never really found myself fully engaged in the story. It was very slow-paced. I understand that the story is really about the sisters coming together again, but the mystery element really did not deliver, and we don’t really see any real resolution between the girls until the very end. I was often confused about the main players in the mystery and didn’t really feel that the final reveal was earth-shattering. 

Additionally, I really wanted to feel this sense of connection to the Sullivan sisters, but I never really felt invested in their stories. This is a really arbitrary complaint, but I really disliked that the main drama in Claire’s storyline was the fact that she didn’t get into Yale, which she knew by December, AND which apparently meant that she couldn’t apply to any other colleges for the rest of the year…. even though a ton of colleges accept applications through February, Again, I know this is such a small dislike, but I think if books are going to be so focused on a character’s acceptance into college, they need to have some sense of accuracy.

For the most part, I liked Murphy, who really just wanted some love and attention from her older sisters. I understand that Murphy is meant to be the ‘baby’ of the three girls, but she did come across as naive from time to time. I didn’t mind Eileen, but I didn’t exactly love her either. I’m all for characters that hide secrets away from the reader, but based on this book’s writing style and how with pretty much every element, we’re learning alongside the characters, I feel like Eileen’s secret knowledge about her family’s history didn’t make sense. 

Overall, The Sullivan Sisters was just not the book for me. From the sisters’ relationship to the family mystery, I just felt no real connection or engagement – don’t get me wrong, this was super disappointing because I really wanted to love this one! I can definitely see myself reading more from Kathryn Ormsbee, but perhaps I’d focus on her strictly contemporary titles. I think if you’re someone who really enjoys character-driven stories above all else, this could be the book for you.

This review is based on a finished copy provided by the publisher. By no means did receiving this review copy affect my thoughts & opinions. 


Is The Sullivan Sisters on your TBR? Have you read any books by Kathryn Ormsbee? Share in the comments!

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