The Almost Archer Sisters by Lisa GabrieleThe Almost Archer Sisters by Lisa Gabriele

The Almost Archer Sisters

byLisa Gabriele

Paperback | December 30, 2008

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about

Georgia “Peachy” Archer Laliberte has almost gotten her life under control. Peachy, her husband Beau, and their two rambunctious sons live on the family farm in a small town in Canada, just across the border from the U.S.. Their closest neighbor is Peachy’s draft-dodging hairdresser father, Lou, who lives in a trailer on their land. Although her son Sam has epilepsy, Peachy, Beau, and Lou have worked out a successful system to care for him and maintain as normal a family life as possible, and Peachy’s status as a superhuman caregiver has its own rewards.

When her life on the farm isn’t quite enough, Peachy can always live vicariously through her glamorous, New York City–dwelling sister, Beth. Thin, successful, and passionate Beth has clawed her way to the top, stepping on anyone it takes to get there — including, every so often, her younger sister. Still, Peachy and Beth are close, and they support each other through crises of all kinds.

They support each other, that is, until Beth decides to sleep with Peachy’s husband Beau — who just happens to be Beth’s ex-boyfriend. Furious, Peachy decides to go to New York City — alone — and leaves Beth home to care for her family. As she spends a terrified, exciting weekend alone in the middle of Beth’s life, Peachy must confront questions of love, loyalty, and family to find her way back home.
Lisa Gabriele is the author of the widely acclaimed novel Tempting Faith Di Napoli. Her writing has appeared in Glamour, Vice, and Salon as well as various anthologies, including the Best American Nonrequired Reading. She’s a regular contributor to Nerve. Gabriele lives in Toronto.
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Title:The Almost Archer SistersFormat:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 8.2 × 5.45 × 0.7 inPublished:December 30, 2008Publisher:Doubleday CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0385660391

ISBN - 13:9780385660396

Reviews

Rated 3 out of 5 by from a good read What heppens to sisters who are exact opposites to each other but are tied together by a common history? This is a novel about just that. Well written but, for me, it was too much the "good girl" versus the "bad girl". I don't think things are that straightforward in life and the author does add some dimension to the characters but too late in the book for me to change my mind about them. That said, it is well written, well paced and certainly worth picking up for a good "airplane" read.
Date published: 2010-01-18
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Neither good nor bad I received this book through the Top Contributors group in February and was supposed to write this review with a month. I explain my problems with trying to complete this book below, but now the group does not seem to function as it did at that time. However, I will post the review anyway. I want to say that I almost liked this novel, but that would be facile. I had mixed feelings about this book from the moment it arrived in the mail. I had thought that the plot sounded interesting, but when I saw the cover, I thought that I might be reading chick-lit. However, I started to read it right away, and found it to be fine, but I put it on one side in favour of some other book. Then I started to read it again on the way to New Orleans and had really got into the story. But when I was about halfway through reading it, when we changed planes in Chicago, I left it (along with my prescription glasses) behind in O'Hare Airport. After waiting to see whether they would be returned to me, I finally just bought another copy of the book. Because three weeks or more had past, I found that I couldn't just pick up where I had left off, and it actually was a good thing that I did reread the first half because it made much more sense to me the second time through. However, by the time I finished reading I was not particularly impressed with the book. Gabriele does do a good job in portraying Beth and Peachy, the Archer half-sisters, since their situations could be a cliche of the story of the Country Mouse and the City Mouse. She also depicts their family home on the edge of a small town south of Windsor in a convincing way. Almost everything about Beth and Peachy are opposite, although Peachy does follow Beth's path in one significant way. Beth couldn't wait to leave Canada to study and work in New York City, where she is now a television personality, living a self-absorbed single life, filled with a lot of exotic travelling and drinking. Peachy got pregnant while she was in university, married and left without her degree, and lives with her husband and two young sons, one who suffers from severe epilepsy, in the family home where she grew up. When she finds her husband (who is Beth's former boyfriend) and Beth having sex in the middle of the night, she leaves Beth behind to cope with Peachy's day-to-day life, she makes a planned trip to NYC alone to step into Beth's world. She does not exact the revenge that she had originally intended, and the end of the book seemed rather flat. I especially didn't like the ten-years-after epilogue in the novel.
Date published: 2009-05-27
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Tentative Excitement Morphs into Disappopintment When it came time to pick another book to review, I chose the well-received The Almost Archer Sisters by Lisa Gabriele (Doubleday Canada, 2008). According to the back cover, it’s about a young mother and her relationship with her fast-living sister Beth and how one weekend “Beth upends everything Peachy thought she knew about being happy.” It had been years since I’d been able to read literary fiction (because of my brain injury), and I wanted my first foray back into this old, familiar territory to be an enjoyable one. I also wanted to read a Canadian author. And so I was both tentative and excited when I sat down in my comfortable armchair, coffee at hand, flipped the pages to chapter one of Gabriele’s book, and began to read. So imagine my disappointment when within the first dozen pages, I was not only not interested in the protagonist Peachy, but was also mightily confused at first as to who Lou was and then what time period we were in. In fact, it’s only after I had read the entire book that the first few pages became comprehensible. I suspect that would be true for most of the first half of the book. It’s an interesting idea to try and replicate the way the mind works, the way when your eye falls on an object all sorts of memories surface and are briefly relived. But writing in that way is tough. Jumping in time causes confusion, and then when characters speak or act out of sync with their age or even their relation to the protagonist – is Lou boyfriend or father, I wondered at first – it makes the time jumping harder to follow. The author often introduced characters or events out of the blue, unexplained as to who or what they were, because obviously Peachy knew who they were and would hardly describe them to herself, yet it leaves the reader confused, and not in a good way. Authors usually tread a fine line of describing the introduced character or event so that the reader can follow the thread, or at least be enticed to follow it, without making the narrator sound ridiculously false. To not tread the line at all is to invite confusion and annoyance. As I continued to read, it struck me that the protagonist’s sister Beth was a much more richly drawn character than the first-person narrator Peachy, making me wonder if the author related better to Beth than to Peachy, while it took a good chunk of the book before Peachy’s husband became more than a one-dimensional-barely-there personality despite his important role. Lou, the father, was mostly a hovering type of character so why Peachy decided to introduce him to a friend was never clear to me, as the reader, beyond the usual clichéd assumptions. That introduction came out of the blue – how else would it come? – in an ending that was too pat, too quickly wrapped up. But by that time, I was glad the book was over. Even though the telling of Peachy’s story finally settled down, finally left the frenetic time jumping, and became mildly interesting halfway through, that was too late in the game to engage me. I almost always find good literature grabs me and holds me in the first page, certainly by the end of the first scene. And in this society of short-attention-span folks, it’s more important than ever to engage the reader immediately. A writer doesn’t necessarily have to have a sympathetic character as the heroine or hero of the story, so long as their story grips the emotional belt of the reader and hangs on. I struggled mightily to become involved in this insipid Peachy, to care enough about her and the emotional cesspit her sister landed them all in, but I couldn’t. The plot itself was interesting enough once I got the hang of it; the characters were not; and the time jumping was disastrously done.
Date published: 2009-04-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A fun, realistic, witty story! It was a lovely story that I could not put down in red in a couple of days! I loved it!
Date published: 2009-03-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An emotional rollercoaster that is worth the read! The Almost Archer Sisters is the story of two sisters, the stable and normal Georgia "Peachy" and the erratic and flighty Beth, who are forced to re-evaluate their lives after Beth does an unthinkable act and sleeps with Peachy's husband. The story follows Peachy as she tries to piece together her life after her sister's betrayal and figure out just who she really is. The storyline appears simple enough - one sister living the Sex & the City lifestyle, the other a stay-at-home mom, and the different lives they live. However Lisa Gabrielle has a beautiful writing style that turns this simple story into one that you won't forget. When I was asked to review "The Almost Archer Sisters" I gladly accepted, thinking I was going to be reviewing a "chick lit" novel. But this book is so much more. Lisa Gabrielle takes the reader on an emotional rollercoaster as we follow Beth and Peachy's turbulent childhood, and touch on real issues such as depression, abortion, suicide, epilepsy and much more. Whether you are a single woman, a mother, or just married you will treasure this book with all your heart as you follow Peachy along her quest to find out who she really is and what life she belongs in, whether its her seemingly idyllic life on the farm with her husband and two children, or the Sex & The City life that Beth leads. The emotion that pours out of every page left me hanging on right until the end, and wishing that there was more. There is also a great Q&A at the end, where author, Lisa Gabrielle, talks about the characters, the story and why she wrote it. For the fans of Cathy Kelly, Marian Keyes and Nicholas Sparks this is one not to be missed. ** Thank you to Merlin at Indigo Books for forwarding this book to review. Please check out more great books at http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/, and Lisa Gabrielle's website http://www.lisagabriele.com/
Date published: 2009-03-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Emotive, real and exciting! The Almost Archer Sisters tells the complicated and realistic story about two sisters, who are completely different from each other. Peachy gave up her dreams for a career, lives happily at home (a farm), got married very young and has two kids, one of which is a boy with special needs. Beth, on the other hand, is a wild party girl, who left the farm as soon as she could. She wanted a career and lots of success, so she headed for New York. In one of Beth’s visits back from New York, Peachy’s life is shaken by an awful event. This event, although awful, leads Peachy to make a decision that changes her life. I find this to be a perfect example of how people must try to find the bright side of things, no matter how awful. Peachy lives a very hard moment in her life, but she manages to get through it and she discovers things about herself she didn’t even know she had in her. Although it may feel like the description of the characters, the sisters, is a little too exaggerated, or caricatural, the story is told in a way that you cannot avoid feeling what both of them are going through. Especially Peachy, who’s the one narrating the story. All the way through the story you’ll experience what she’s going through, embarrassing moments, joyful moments, and sad moments. This story has many beautiful, but very realistic characters. Not only Peachy and Beth, but also other characters such as Lou, Beau, Nadia and even Jonathan (Beth’s Doorman) are very real. They are everyday people, like any of us. They have their flaws and their problems and they are far from being perfect, which makes them beautiful. The author gave the story a somewhat cheerful tone, while still touching serious and real matters such as sibling rivalry, family bonds, suicide, betrayal and the search for oneself. It’s a fast-paced read that takes you back and forth in time.
Date published: 2009-02-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Sister Sister Lisa Gabriele is a new voice in Canadian fiction, and if her first novel is any indication, she will be a strong one. Beth and Peachy are like most literary sisters, complete opposites and completely dependant on the other. When one crosses a line, where actions can not be undone, how will the other cope with the change? I really enjoyed this book, although I didnt realize it until I was half way through. To take a common situation (at least in books) and write something funny, touching, and fresh is a great accomplishment. The characters you have met before, and the scenario has beeen played many times, but the path to reach the destination is different, and the ending unseen. Very good read, worth the time.
Date published: 2009-01-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great book from a Canadian author.... I knew I had a doctor's appointment after work the other day, so I quickly stuck The Almost Archer Sisters in my bag to take with me. My doctor is invariably behind, so an hour and a half later, it was my turn. But honestly, I was so engrossed in this book, I really didn't notice how much time had passed. (I was in a much better place than those stuck reading outdated Sports Illustrated) Releasing tomorrow from Random House Canada, this second novel from Lisa Gabriele is one of those books that is a found gem - one you have to let your friends know about. It tells the story of two sisters who were raised on a farm in Ontario. Beth is a wild child who pushed the boundaries of everything growing up and continues to do so as an adult. She fled the farm and moved to New York to pursue a successful career. The other sister Georgia, but known to all as Peachy, stayed at home. She got pregnant and married before she finished her social work degree. Her husband, Beau, was Beth's first lover. Their father, Lou, a draft dodging hairdresser, also lives on the farm in a trailer. Beth's life seems be unravelling and she is coming home to the farm for more frequent visits. Peachy's life is stressful as well. Her son Sam has severe epilepsy. Her focus lately has been on his health, not on her other son and husband. Things come to a head during one Beth's visits. Peachy gets up in the night and walks in on her sister and Beau - and they're not playing cards. What could have precipitated such a betrayal? Can any relationship - the siblings, the husband and wife, the father and daughters - ever recover or be rebuilt after such perfidy? Gabriele's writing is at turns funny and poignant but above all else it is real. I was captivated by the characters and could not put the book down. It was Peachy who captured my heart - she's someone you would love to really know. The ending isn't cut and dried, leaving you to form your own conclusions. This would be a great selection for a book club. And I have another wonderful Canadian author to put on my favourites list!
Date published: 2008-12-29

Read from the Book

Chapter OneUntil she left the farm for good, I never thought much about what made me different from my sister, what set me apart from her beyond our looks, beyond her hair color (unnatural blond) and mine (unremarkable brown), her body type (tall, thin) and mine (neither). She had always been fickle where I had been firm – mean to my kind. She shone brighter than me, for sure, but sometimes painfully so, like the way the sun hurts to look at when you have a head cold.But it wasn’t until I left the farm years later that another difference made itself clear: unlike with Beth, men had mostly been good to me; it was women who broke my heart. First our mother, then Beth.I was almost sixteen the morning she left Lou and me for school in New York, her packing so purposeful that the whole house seemed windy with her escape. As I watched her, my slippered feet swinging off the side of her bed, I don’t remember thinking that I’d never leave myself. I hadn’t planned to stay forever in the same house, town, and country in which I was born. Do stayers do that? Do we toddle around as babies, then children, then teenagers, fingering the chipped Formica, the cat-mangled armchairs, the muggy drapes, thinking, I’m pretty sure this old house and these burnt fields are as good as it’s ever going to get for me, think I’ll stay? I didn’t do that. That’s not how it happened.“Throw me that belt, Peach,” Beth said, half-awake, sipping coffee Lou had carried upstairs on a tray. “Dammit, I hate my clothes. I’m gonna have to steal some new outfits.”“Go ahead. Dad says you’re old enough to go to jail now and he won’t bail you out this time.”She gave me an arch look.“Want these?” She excavated her roller skates from the bowels of her closet and was holding them up in her clothespinned fingers. “Can’t be bombing around campus in these. Or can I? Maybe that could be a cool way of getting around. Short shorts. Maybe a little felt cap?”I could picture it too, Beth on the way to class roller-skating backward, wearing her Walkman.“Nah, on second thought, they’re stinky and old. You have them,” she said, gently tossing them with the rest of her castoffs engulfing me on the bed. That’s how Beth parted with things. Even then, I was aware that in order for Beth to let go of something she had to convince herself that she had never wanted it to begin with.“How about this?” she asked, pressing her long silver prom dress to my shoulders. It was an unsettlingly grown-up gown, a mermaid-style confection she had daringly paired with hippy-type sandals and rows of leather bracelets on her upper arms. Beth had also brought an actual grown-up to the gala, a twenty-four-year-old professional hockey player with a drinking problem and an ex-wife. “Maybe someone will ask you next year if you put down a book and put on some lipstick. And if they do, Peachy, go, okay?”Prom night had turned into a lost weekend for Beth, during which time we received no fewer than a dozen phone calls from her date’s ex, threatening murder. As for me, I’d spend my own prom night with Lou, coaxing a wounded raccoon out from underneath the porch. We had seen it get hit by a car on the highway, had watched it quickly amble to the farmhouse, ducking under a break in the lattice. For days Lou hunkered under the house to move the flashlight across its face to see if the raccoon’s eyes reflected back at him. I would periodically place sardines on the end of my field hockey stick and wave it in front of its nose, pleading with it to take a bite, Just a bite, come on, please?Poor thing took four days to die. We buried it in a laundry bag by the willow stump that served as the farm’s morbidly crowded animal cemetery. Maybe because of the encroaching subdivisions and widening highways, the farm became a kind of last-stop refuge for these luckless creatures, a place where the wounded could get a bit of comfort before dying. And I became, like Lou, a talented cheerleader for those who’d arrive at our doorstep on their last legs.Beth took a dusty, unframed picture of our mother off a high shelf, its edges curled from resting slumped in a corner. In it Nell’s on a beach shielding her eyes from the sun, the other hand holding up three fingers – the number of months she was pregnant with Beth. On the back someone had scribbled “Santa Cruz ’71.” I wish I could say Beth became mournfully reflective. I would like to have remembered that moment as one infused with tender sadness over our mother’s death, one of the few things we shared. But instead Beth flung it in my direction like a Frisbee.“Want this?”Before I could answer, Lou struck a knuckle on her doorjamb, the dog peeking around his legs with endearing curiosity. Scoots had long given up entering Beth’s room alone. It had been off-limits to him since he was introduced to us a year earlier, when even he seemed to sense Beth’s ambivalence toward anything cute or kind. She wasn’t a cooer or a petter, so Lou’s attempt to use a puppy to keep his errant oldest closer to home had failed miserably. In fact, that’s how he got his name, from Beth kicking him away from her, saying, “Scoot, dog. Get out of here. Stop licking my feet.”“Your ride called,” Lou said. “I’m gonna go meet them.”At orientation a month earlier Beth had met a girl from Leamington whose parents were also sending her to school in New York to study fashion and design. They offered to bring Beth over the border with them in their big pickup truck with the passenger cab, but it meant she’d be limited to two boxes and two suitcases. The rest Lou and I would have to ship.Beth gave them directions to the Starlite, the convenience store in the center of town. It was easy to find; the farm wasn’t. We knew how to get ourselves home, but when we had trouble guiding people over the train tracks, past the highway, over two county roads and several concessions, it was best to just send them to the store, where one of us would drive the ten minutes to fetch them. The store used to dazzle Beth. Its clean neon sign and plain white stucco exterior belied a busy inside; narrow aisles with saggy metal shelves were stuffed with loud metallic bags of junk food, sewing supplies, kitchen utensils, and cheap games and toys made in foreign countries. It was a place crowded with choices and Beth loved it. And for a long time our mother could use a trip to the Starlite to get her to behave in a hurry. But after our mother died, the toys began to look used and poor to Beth, the doll’s hair plugs apparent through the dusty plastic, their stenciled eyes and mouths misaligned and kind of menacing. Soon after, Lou’s own promises to stop at the Starlite were greeted by bored sighs and blank stares out the car window.Lou moved sheepishly about the house looking for his keys, all of us aware that political stubbornness was the only thing preventing him from driving Beth to New York himself.Lou hadn’t stepped foot in the United States in almost eighteen years, not since arriving on Canadian shores as a welcome draft dodger and proud coward. But Beth didn’t seem to mind that morning. I had often wondered if her love affair with America wasn’t partly fueled by the knowledge that her shabby kin couldn’t, or in my case, wouldn’t, follow her there.“Okay, gals, be back in ten!” he yelled, the front door slamming behind him.“I think that’s it,” Beth said, surveying the room, fists at her hips. Then she plopped down next to me on a bed piled high with her past. “Peachy, I need to tell you something, okay?”“Yeah,” I said, shrugging my shoulders up to my ears, bracing myself against potential poignancy. It wasn’t that we weren’t close, but her adolescence had left me battle-weary. Discussions about periods, orgasms, heartbreaks, and hangovers had always been completely one-sided and uncomfortably forthcoming.Beth took a deep breath.“Okay. In that box,” she said, pointing to one of four we’d be shipping, “is several thousand dollars’ worth of high-grade marijuana. A kind of mix between local skunk and Holland white widow that I’ve been growing out back behind the barn all summer. It’s been properly dried and wrapped in plastic. Then I sealed the bundles in some coffee tins I’ve been hoarding. If the border police find it, you could go to jail. But I’m ninety-five percent certain that they won’t. So no worries. And I’ll take the rap. That is, if they find me. But just make sure those boxes are completely sealed, okay? And make sure you ship them after me as soon as possible, today even, because I know how you and Lou procrastinate about going into town for errands. You guys put things off. I don’t want to wait two weeks for them. I need that box, Peachy. You understand what I’m telling you, right?”During the cruel five seconds that passed before she burst into her wicked laughter – the kind that bent her completely forward onto her hands and knees on the floor of a bedroom we’d leave exactly as she left it – I actually pictured a SWAT team pulling up our long gravel driveway, brandishing rifles.“Holy shit, Peachy, you should have seen your face! Oh my God, you kill me you are so fucking naïve.”I punched the side of her arm hard.“Ow!”“Jesus, Beth. You are such a bitch! Why do you do that to me?”“Oh my God,” she said, panting for air and rubbing the spot where I hit her. “Because I can.”We heard Lou’s Jeep turn into the driveway, followed by the Leamington family’s tires hitting the gravel. At a honk we sprang up and began to gather her things. Beth giggled as she loaded my shoulders with her carry-on and her knapsack. Lou appeared in the doorway with his sleeves rolled up over his downy white forearms. Beth hoisted one of the two smaller boxes she was bringing with her and pointed with a foot to the other one. Lou and I formed the not-so-reluctant caravan following her down the stairs, out the front door, across the porch, and into the cool August dawn.Introductions were short and vague. The rich girl’s father began to ask Lou about the kind of crops growing on the acres that lushly surrounded our farmhouse. Before Lou could tell him they weren’t our crops, that much of the remaining land was leased after the outside acres had been sold to pay for Beth’s tuition, Beth swatted us back and away, far from the truck to make our private, awkward goodbye.“Okay. So. I guess this is it,” she said, hooking an arm around Lou’s broad shoulders then mine. They were exactly the same height, both a full head taller than I. “I’ll call you when I get settled, Lou. And I’ll see you at Thanksgiving. The American one.”“Well, my love,” Lou said, his blue eyes watered down with genuine tears. “We will miss you oh so much, you know?”“Aw,” she said, cocking her head as though Lou had merely been her kindly landlord for seventeen years and not the man whose last name she shared, who had sold most of his property to pay for her dreams.“I’ll miss you too, Beth. A little,” I said, still bruised by her prank. I tried hard to catch up to Lou’s emotions, to muster up at least a hint of something sad around my eyes, but I couldn’t. It’s not that I wouldn’t miss her, but in the weeks and months before her departure I was becoming curious about what life would be like on a Beth-less farm and in what direction I might grow if I ever got out from under her dense shadow. I had plans. University, and then the purchase of a car perhaps. I wanted to grow out my bangs, read in peace without Beth snatching my books and lobbing them across the room if she wanted my attention. Perhaps I’d visit Nana Beecher in Florida. Nothing dramatic. But plans nonetheless.“Oh, you will miss me. Believe me, Peach. You just don’t know it yet,” she said.And that was it. She was gone. I did the walk and wave, following the heavy truck backing out of the driveway, later joining Lou on the porch, where we watched the sun come all the way out, the two of us sipping coffees on Nana Beecher’s wicker chairs. It was so quiet the air felt tinged with religion. Still, we wasted no time in reminiscing, both of us laughing loud and hard at Beth’s pot prank.“Oh, man,” Lou said, exhaling with a whistle, “you can call Beth Ann Archer a lot of things, but you can’t say she isn’t funny. That’s funny, Peach.”“I know. I walked right into it too,” I said, shaking my head.“Always do.”“I know it.”We took in some more silence.“You need to check that box though,” Lou said, taking a sip of coffee, “before we send it.”“Already did,” I said, leaning back to click his cup with mine. I left out the part about cutting open the box and finding a sealed envelope resting on top of a pile of sweaters, my real name, “Georgia,” printed in Beth’s neat scroll. Inside was a note.Gotcha! I suppose I deserve it. I haven’t been all that trustworthy lately. Anyway, Miss Georgia Peach, I just wanted to tell you that I love you more than monkeys, mountains, or the moon, because I probably won’t be able to say it to you in person before I go. Be good. Or at least be gooder than me. XXOO Beth.I placed the picture of Nell in the envelope and resealed the box. Later, Lou and I drove into town to ship them.Over the next few years, while Beth pledged passionate allegiance to a flag he hated, Lou refurbished a silver Airstream trailer and turned it into a hair salon he parked out back near the river. While Beth made out with strapping models in crimson darkrooms, married instructors in dim hotel rooms, and one Korean lesbian on a dare, I lost my virginity to seedy Dougie Beauchamp after a high school rock concert and some beer in a parked car. While Beth financed her first trip to the couture shows in Milan by taking a summer job selling ecstasy for an overleveraged bond trader, I began studying for a glamorous career in social work, chosen because Beth always said I was a good listener, a great helper, her favorite sidekick, and, like her, I should try to make a living at whatever came naturally to me.So I began the daily commute to the university to study the art and science of helping people help themselves. There I would learn how to negotiate the psychological landmines of longing and loathing, and to dissect how families can easily fall into the throes of violence, poverty, and addiction. It was hard work, but I often felt like I’d be embarking upon something necessary, noble even, after graduation. So I acted smug rather than jealous when Beth called to say she had landed a high-paying job dressing vapid celebrities for national television. Sure, I would have liked to have gone to Rome or Paris on a press junket, and I wouldn’t have said no to meeting a movie star or eating a five-hundred-dollar meal. But I comforted myself with the knowledge that it was more important to help people be good than look good. Unlike several of my classmates, I actually read my expensive textbooks cover to cover, highlighting the parts I would later memorize, making it a priority to put a dent in the suggested readings list between the extra courses taken in an attempt to graduate a little earlier. Because Lou was right – managing the lives of the less fortunate felt like a thing I was born to do. I saw my name, Georgia Archer, before it was caboosed by Laliberté, with a B.S.W. on the end, followed perhaps by an M.S.W., and still later a Ph.D., because you never know. And I wanted it – really meant it – all the way up to the day I quit school, six credits shy of my degree, and a few months after the nicest guy in town knocked me up and married me at twenty.

Bookclub Guide

1. The Almost Archer Sisters is written entirely in Peachy’s first-person perspective. Do you trust Peachy’s narration of the events in the novel? Are there specific events that you question? For example, how might Beth have told the story of the abortion differently? Of the discovery of Nell’s suicide?2. On the first page of the novel, Peachy describes herself as “unremarkable,” “kind,” and, perhaps most significantly, as a “stayer.” What do you think are the benefits of being a “stayer” like Peachy, or a “leaver” like Beth? What did you think about Peachy’s perception of herself in the novel overall? Does she like herself? Do you like her? Why or why not?3. When Peachy is telling the story of Beth’s teenage years, she observes, “I had experienced adolescence largely through Beth, much the way I like to think she’d later experience adulthood through me.” (42) In fact, Peachy repeatedly emphasizes her own “adulthood” and Beth’s “adolescence” in the novel. Do you agree that Peachy is the most “adult” character in the novel? What aspects of Peachy’s character are more “adolescent” than Beth’s?4. In a particularly dramatic moment in the novel, Peachy has an argument at the U.S. and Canadian border with her father, Lou, about Beth’s adultery. Peachy, furious with her father for defending Beth, tells him, “I didn’t take my sadness out on the whole fucking planet.” Lou responds, “That’s right, Peachy. You don’t. You’re lucky. But because Beth does, we have to try to love her more.” (164) Do you agree with Lou? Do you think Lou is a good father? Does the novel offer a definitive judgment on good and bad parenting? If so, what is it?5. On page 84, Peachy says, “I’ve never envied my prettier, smarter, funnier, skinnier, richer sister. Her uncertainty drained even me.” Despite this observation, several of Peachy’s thoughts and actions seem dominated by her sense of competition with her sister; perhaps the most vivid example is on page 129, when Peachy considers making love with her husband: “Once he had it in his mind, he was like a snowplow in his single-minded pursuit of sex. . . . I had wanted Beth to hear a variation of this later that night. . . . I wanted her to know that despite my complaints, I had made all the right decisions about my life.” (129) Do you think Peachy’s portrayal of Beth’s judgment of her choices is fair, or is it merely a projection of her own doubts? Were you sympathetic to Peachy’s insecurity about what Beth thinks or frustrated by it? Why?6. On page 82, Peachy says about her marriage to Beau: “I know now we had just begun the process of growing apart, something that used to baffle me about other couples. I used to wonder, how, after seven, eight years together do you possibly ‘grow apart’? And please can you show me how to do it?” What do you think of Beau and Peachy’s marriage? Do you think Peachy holds any responsibility for Beau’s cheating with Beth? What do you think happens to the marriage after the novel ends?7. Sam’s epilepsy is a major controlling force in Peachy’s life. On page 24, she declares, “Life was all Sam. . . . It was hard to think of anything but his ceaseless metabolism.” In what ways did dealing with Sam’s epilepsy affect Peachy’s understanding of Beth? Of herself?8. When Peachy decides not to pursue a career in social work, ostensibly to take care of Sam, she says, “Because I believed I was needed at home, Beau and Lou believed it, too. But no matter how I couched my excuse, Beth wasn’t buying any of it.” (33) Towards the end of the novel, Peachy describes Beth as “a woman who never, ever dropped her guard for anyone, except for maybe me.” (210) Are Peachy and Beth the closest characters in the novel? Do they know each other best?9. The novel often focuses on the theme of outsider and insider status – who belongs and who doesn’t belong in a certain place or time. For example, when Peachy returns home with her boys the morning after finding Beth and Beau having sex, she has a sudden vision of Beth as Beau’s wife, and reflects: “Maybe this was all a big misunderstanding, I thought. Maybe they were the ones who had gotten married all those years ago and I was the one just stopping by.” (147) What are some other examples in the novel of Peachy feeling like an outsider in her own life? Do you think she creates that feeling for herself, or is it a result of her circumstances? Does she overcome that feeling by the end of the novel?10. When Peachy decides to go to New York without Beth, she calls her and goes into an astonishing, climactic litany of her duties as a wife and mother: “Before you leave for Detroit, make a lunch for Beau. No meat. The fridge is broken at the shop. His Thermos is in the dishwasher. Washer’s still broken. There’s four loads of laundry already separated in the basement. Throw them in the trunk.” (The entire speech can be found on pages 155-157.) In many ways, this is Peachy’s first true moment of self-assertion in the novel. Do you find it pathetic, as Peachy herself does (“Jesus it sounds like my life sucks”) or triumphant? What did you think of the novel’s portrayal of the life of a stay-at-home mother?11. Upon her arrival in New York City, Peachy says, “I felt young and dumb, and suddenly I wanted a mother, any mother, to wrap me in a shock blanket and take me home.” Where else does the theme of the absent mother appear in the novel? (A particularly beautiful passage where Peachy describes the effect of her mother’s suicide can be found on page 152: “And they can’t shake it off.”) How does Nell’s death affect Peachy’s own motherhood? How do you think it affects Beth’s interaction with her nephews?12. While spending time with Jake and Sam at the park, Peachy observes Jake’s behavior and says, “I suddenly caught a glimpse of what a little asshole he might become at twenty or thirty, when he was grown up and hopefully some nice woman’s problem.” (143) Did you find Peachy’s periodic matter-of-fact assessment of her children jarring or realistic? Did it make you more or less sympathetic to her as a character? Why?13. Although Peachy is tempted, she ultimately decides not to invite Marcus up to the apartment after their date. Were you disappointed or relieved by her decision? Do you think Marcus’s attraction to Peachy was feigned or genuine?14. Did you like the way the novel ended, with brief snapshots of the future, or would you have preferred to be left in the dark? Why?

Editorial Reviews

“Fantastic. . . . In unfairly effortless prose, Lisa Gabriele captures the beauty and ugliness of motherhood and family. Smart, achingly funny, and brimming with sincere emotion, Gabriele has written a sweet-hearted book about how hard – and how necessary – it is to love.” — Katrina Onstad, author of How Happy to Be

“A lovely book – funny, smart, wonderfully entertaining. I enjoyed it thoroughly.” — Joy Fielding