This post comes a bit late, as for the real Mother’s Day I had to do a little sleuthing to make sure my mom had actually finished reading the book mentioned in the post.
There is a portion of The Girl Who Flew Away that is undeniably influenced by my mom. In the book, protagonist Steffie learns a secret about the relationship between herself and her sister (spoiler: I won’t go there). As she works to figure it out, she keeps remembering a bit of a song her mother would sing:
Friends and sisters,
Not just sisters, but also friends.
These two lines come directly from a song my mother would sing to me as a kid, sometimes when my sister and I were getting along—and sometimes when we weren’t!
In any case, the song was often accompanied by a discussion about how my mom never had a sibling growing up, and she always wished for someone to play with. By contrast, my sister and I were supposed to be happy to have one another. (As you can imagine, this often came up during our typical sister fights over whose turn it was to play with a particular stuffed animal, or who got the minutely-larger slice of bread at lunch. I mean, I seriously used to lick the bread of the grilled cheese sandwich that I wanted out of fear that my sister would take my “turn” at choosing the bigger piece.)
From the perspective of a kid, imagining living as an only child often seemed like a dream. Imagine all the toys in the house—and all mine! Imagine never vying for anyone’s attention or always getting the first choice of whatever meal was being served! I mean, we even fought over who got to sit on which side of the car. It’s hard for a sibling to imagine any negatives the peaceful alternative.
The lonely alternative, my mom would argue.
Sometimes when my mom would sing the song to us, I would nod and think of all the fun I was having with my sister. Sometimes I would cringe and plot several layers of revenge for my sister’s latest treachery and wonder how my mom could be so calm when World War III was on the verge of breaking out.
In The Girl Who Flew Away, Steffie’s relationship with her sister is stained, to say the least. But as the story progresses, she learns that the bonds of family and the years of growing up often trump superficial differences that may arise.
Growing up, my sister and I had our fair share of fights, but now that we’re “grown ups,” we have a solid relationship. Those little fights that we had as kids now make funny stories more than anything else, and the happy memories are priceless. As I told her on my wedding day: we’re sisters by chance, friends by choice.
See, Mom? We were listening!
About The Girl Who Flew Away:
No good deed goes unpunished when freshman Steffie Brenner offers to give her awkward new neighbor a ride home after her first day at school. When her older sister Ali stops at a local park to apply for a job, Steffie and Madison slip out of the car to explore the park—and Madison vanishes.
Already in trouble for a speeding ticket, Ali insists that Steffie say nothing about Madison’s disappearance. Even when Madison’s mother comes looking for her. Even when the police question them.
Some secrets are hard to hide, though—especially with Madison’s life on the line. As she struggles between coming clean or going along with her manipulative sister’s plan, Steffie begins to question if she or anyone else is really who she thought they were. After all, the Steffie she used to know would never lie about being the last person to see Madison alive—nor would she abandon a friend in the woods: alone, cold, injured, or even worse.
But when Steffie learns an even deeper secret about her own past, a missing person seems like the least of her worries…