Are sisters “forever” or can secrets can break the bond? That’s the big question in Karen White’s story about two sets of sisters whose lives are divided by tragedy and broken dreams. The Time Between traces the modern lives of Eleanor Murray and her wheelchair-bound sister Eve, whose life was forever changed because of a sisterly dare. We meet the second set of sisters when Finn Beaufain, Eleanor’s daytime boss, hires her for a second job as companion to his elderly aunt, Helena Szarka.
The story takes place on the scenic Edisto Island in South Carolina, where Eleanor and Eve grew up and where Helena and her sister Bernadett followed their older sister Magda after World War II. Eleanor is a young woman, trapped by guilt and obligation to care for Eve and their arthritic mother. Her dream of studying piano at Julliard has been dashed and Eve’s husband Glen is a reminder of what could have been.
Helena does not want a companion. At ninety years old, she is grieving Bernadett’s death and has little patience for Eleanor’s self-absorbed martyrdom. Their shared love of music may bring them together, but family secrets on both sides block the way. At Helen’s house, something is strange about the oil paintings that hang on her walls. And Eleanor’s unspoken and painful thoughts trace back to Eve’s accident. If only her father were still alive to guide her.
I enjoyed this story of family, mystery, and the parallel look at sisters, written from the surviving sisters’ varying points of view. I also enjoyed the historical element, which describes the three Szarka sisters as young women during the German invasion of Hungary. White’s vivid descriptions of Edisto make it easy to picture life on the island, a place that would be nice to visit. Sweetgrass baskets sold by roadside locals fill Helena’s house and they take on special meaning when Helena enters a forbidden closed-off room at Luna Point.
Helena and Eve are different, but their similarities may be enough to help them understand the decisions they’ve made and see that there are indeed second chances, allowing them to break free from the time between.
The Time Between is a light story with thought provoking themes. While its plot and characters are often predictable, White writes about many of my favorite subjects, family, relationships, and mysterious old houses with locked doors and forbidden rooms.
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