Monday, 1 July 2019

Spotlight & Excerpt: Sister of Mine by Laurie Petrou.

Steeped in intrigue and suspense, Sister of Mine is a powerhouse debut; a sharp, disquieting thriller written in stunning, elegant prose with a devastating twist. Fans of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies and Shari Lapena’s The Couple Next Door will be utterly absorbed by this compulsively readable novel.

The Grayson sisters are trouble. Everyone in their small town knows it. But no-one can know of the secret that binds them together.
Hattie is the light. Penny is the darkness. Together, they have balance.
But one night the balance is toppled. A match is struck. A fire is started. A cruel husband is killed. The potential for a new life flickers in the fire’s embers, but resentment, guilt, and jealousy suffocate like smoke.
Their lives have been engulfed in flames – will they ever be able to put them out? 

She breaks into a run as soon as she clears the flames. Tripping and falling through trees, galloping like a confused animal, head turned over shoulder, fire in her eyes. She hears a window break like a firecracker, branches snap against her shoulders. Her knees scraped, her hair singed, her breath sour and pressing, pushing out foul words and curses, knowing that she has done it now, goddammit, she has really fucking done it now.

She runs through the forest behind the property, out to the back roads, ducking into hedges with every sound of a car approaching. Eventually she hears fire trucks screaming dimly behind her, where she can see a thin column of smoke if she strains her eyes, lifting her chin and squinting over poplars in the dark sky. A deer startles her, leaping over shrubs, its tail in the air. Her long, thin summer dress is muddy at the bottom, torn in places, a lacy hem pulling away from the skirt. She pushes fingers through her hair. She swears and pants and refuses to cry.

Blocks away, she knows that her sister, curled in her tangled sheets, is waiting. The clocks ticking, the big old house holding its breath, about to take in another secret. Can her sister hear that siren start to wail?

Mouth dry, body hopping with ragged energy, she takes a familiar route through a laneway, passing light, metal fencing wound up with a dead vine, and moves quietly to the back of the house. Like when they were young, and would slip in after curfew. Not so long ago. When she was silly and bad, but not as bad as this. Not as good as this. She reaches into the bird feeder in the apple tree and pulls out a key, a magic ticket, shaking off sunflower seeds like fairy dust. She opens the back door, letting the screen butt against her leg, into the quiet of the lower hallway. She breathes in the flowery, soapy air of her childhood.

She climbs the stairs, and tells herself she’s been there all night; that she had been there in the early evening, just before supper – washed the lettuce in the sink and wrapped it in a towel, pushing out the moisture with the heels of her hands. She tells herself they had eaten and gone to bed early, that if she says this enough, it will be true. She passes the kitchen, her heart slowing down at last. One of the wooden chairs is pulled out from the table, the newspaper lies open. A whole life that took place before now. And then just like that, she wonders what it feels like to burn, to be caught in smoke and flames, and she has to stop and hold the door frame to support herself. It comes so fast. This is it; this is how it will be. Get used to it. Push it away. Douse the fire.

A creak from a bed, the sound of someone sitting up and listening. She takes the second flight of stairs with purpose. She speaks, and hearing her words for the first time in hours makes her aware of her voice: scratchy, soft, scared.

It’s me. I’m home.’

LAURIE PETROU has a PhD in Communication and Culture, and is an Associate Professor at Ryerson’s RTA School of Media in Toronto, where she is also the Director of the Masters of Media Production program. She has given several TEDx talks on subjects including gender and rejection. Laurie was the inaugural winner of the Half the World Global Literati Award in 2016, a prize that honours unpublished work featuring female protagonists, for her novel Sister of Mine. She now lives in a small town in Ontario wine country with her husband, a wine maker, and their two sons.