The Sisters Sweet

Dial. Nov. 2021. 416p. ISBN 9781984801548. $27.
DEBUT Weiss’s debut is a tale of Americana and the theater, narrated by Harriet Szász, one half of the “Siamese Sweets,” a child vaudeville act posing as conjoined twins. Though the story is set during the First World War and the Great Depression, Harriet barely acknowledges these events, instead focusing on her personal drama navigating the theater, her complex parents, and the abrupt departure of her twin sister, Josie, for Hollywood. Harriet’s tale is interwoven with accounts of her parents. While the transitions between these stories within stories—sometimes taking place in a single chapter—can be jarring, they serve to humanize Harriet and her family. There are deep, tragic elements to this story, but Harriet does not dwell on them. The members of the Szász family, while odd, are easy to like. As Harriet grows, from passive observer of her own life to woman capable of choices, the coming-of-age theme heightens the story’s energy and focus.
VERDICT This debut, by a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, is a multilayered celebration of female independence in the arts during an era that often demanded feminine conventionality. It should appeal to readers fascinated by women-centric takes on the theatrical world and the United States of the early 20th century.
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