Christine Riccio’s Better Together is a fun and lighthearted romp with serious undertones.
East Coast based Siri is recovering from a back injury, a professional ballerina facing a life without dance. Dance is her go to way to process life, and without it she’s floundering in a sea of anger and isolation.
Jamie, a comedian in LA, is reliving the worst moment of her career over and over, retreating further and further into herself.
Siri’s mother and Jamie’s father both send them to a retreat in Colorado, where they run smack into each other- and their past. Jamie is shocked to find her long absent little sister right in front of her, while Siri thinks she’s going delusional and seeing her childhood imaginary friend again.
As Siri and Jamie work to figure out what the heck is going on, they uncover deception, trauma, and lies that have permeated their lives and had a lasting effect on both of their psyches.
This novel takes a look at what happens when The Parent Trap meets Freaky Friday. The magical realism aspect is established well and the rules of their world are easy to digest. The writing is well paced and humorous, while the tougher topics are covered with gentleness.
I loved the diversity of the characters. All the characters are well developed and unique, and the cameo of characters from Riccio’s first novel make me want to pick that one up as well. At the beginning of the novel, I had a hard time liking either protagonist; Siri seemed sulky and annoying while Jamie was a bit egotistical and frustrating in her own right. But as the novel wore on, I came to understand why these women had developed these traits and enjoyed watching them learn and grow into better people.
As a big movie fan, I liked the meshing together of various family bonding style tropes to help the character’s achieve their goal, but I also appreciated knowing it was coming before I began reading. The magical realism aspect is fairly limited to the one plot point, and both sisters seem to have a hard time remembering they don’t look like themselves (which left me a bit bewildered and wondering how much they look alike when they aren’t magicked into looking like one another!).
Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for an advanced copy of this novel so I could write this review!
Better Together will be available June 1, 2021.