Half-Life of a Stolen Sister

Written by Rachel Cantor
Review by K. M. Sandrick

An ailing mother describes her children: Annie who will always be the baby; Em who cares less for people than places; Branny, the only boy, whose big heart will always try to please; Lotte who cares more about what she doesn’t have; Liza who will not mind being forgotten; and mother Maria’s namesake, baby Maria, who fills the spaces. These are the Brontë children, and as their mother notes, they cannot live without each other.

Cantor’s third book continues her adventures in storytelling. Her 2014 debut novel, A Highly Unlikely Scenario, time traveled in science fiction. Her second book in 2016, Good on Paper, straddled the line between fiction and reality. Half-Life of a Stolen Sister traces the paths of the Brontës through their youth, their sense of duty, their hope, work, life (and death), and love. The presentation is eclectic, including memos, postcards, diary entries and biographical notes, scenes from a stage play, letters, a radio broadcast, and a job interview. The vignettes capture the voices of the storytellers across time, from childhood imaginings of wild woods and evil lords to adult contemplations of mortality and loss.

The narrative departs from the strictly historical, slipping in modern-day references to email messaging and trips to the Dollar Store for Spaghettios. Yet the reader is never lost in time, continuing to connect deeply with the characters, their thoughts, and experiences.

Innovative. Infectious. Insightful. Indelible.