St. Martin's, Apr 2003, 22.95, 224 pp.
During World War II, Jack Wheatley was a Japanese prisoner of war for three and a half years. When he was released he went home, but was never the same. Since coming home, he and his wife Martha have six children. As the children grow up Jack is mentally abusive towards his family members while Martha is somewhat negligent being too tired to do more than care for her spouse. The oldest child, Jill raises the other five kids.
Over the years, each child finds his or her own way to avoid dad. Jill battles her father at times, but mostly hides in books and later in anti-war movements and sex. Johnnie, perhaps the recipient of the most abuse, is weak and sleeps away life. May designs clothing on any scrap of paper she finds. The twins Door and Mouse lean on each other. Only Christine can reach Jack as she loves his war stories, but even she often fails when he becomes obstinate and hard.
MY SISTER JILL is an insightful look at a dysfunctional family in which the father never fully recovers from his war years so the children suffer the consequences. The story line engages the reader who empathizes with the plight of the children, but scorn Martha for behaving pathetic and helpless in protecting anyone including herself. Thus the audience receives a taut heart wrenching character study that provides a powerful look at a family in trouble.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner