"The Almost Sisters: a Novel" (William Morrow), by Joshilyn Jackson
"The Almost Sisters" is, at its heart, a story about four generations of family. How author Joshilyn Jackson defines family, however, isn't just by bloodlines and gene pools.
Describing the book as I've done already to a few friends — all in the form of recommendation — makes it sound far-fetched and soap opera-ish, but there's nothing but authenticity and compelling storytelling driving it. Bear with the summary: it's worth it.
Leia is a successful comic-book author living in a Washington suburb. But Leia's roots are in the town of Birchville, deep in the heart of Alabama, where her father's family, the Birches, has been quite literally the pillar of the community for generations. Grandma Birchie is nearest and dearest in Leia's heart. She admires her grandmother almost blindly as a dynamo independent spitfire with thick Southern charm and impeccable manners. She also cherishes that Birchie is the only connection to her father, who died when Leia was young.
With Birchie comes her best friend, her true soul mate Wattie, who is Birchie's social equivalent in the local black community. Thick as thieves, these two.
When Leia gets the call that Birchie is sick, she doesn't think twice about taking a long-term hiatus from her daily routine. Life is headed toward a big shake-up anyway since she just found out she is pregnant with a baby boy who was conceived with a man wearing a Batman costume at a comic expo, and Leia hasn't talked to him since.
But it turns out that Birchie is hiding more than the severity of her illness. She has a bona fide deep, dark secret that tests the normal boundaries of love and friendship, but ultimately strengthens them.