Sisterhood of the Infamous by Jane Rosenberg LaForge
Publication Date : February 23rd 2021
Publisher : New Meridian Arts Press
Genre : Literary Fiction
Pages : 316
Barbara Ross was at the center of the punk rock explosion as it took root in 1970s Los Angeles as a guitarist for the all-girl outfit California Youth Authority. Decades later she finds herself at the center of a murder investigation after her one-time girlfriend, the pop music sensation Jasmine, is found dead in the Hollywood Hills. The only problem is Barbara is bedridden and dying of breast cancer, and her older sister, a retired ballerina, is talking to the cops, the press, and all of Barbara’s friends. In SISTERHOOD OF THE INFAMOUS, both women reconsider their separate quests for art and fame, and which carries the higher cost: success or infamy.
Other book I read by the same author-
*** Note: I received e-copy of this book from the author, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to author. ***
Sisterhood of the Infamous was interesting and beautifully written fiction that revolved around Barbara who was dying from cancer and her older sister. It was about family relationship, sibling rivalry, fame culture, suffering from cancer and anorexia, being gay in the 1970’s, resilience, identity, humanity, and heartbreak.
Writing was beautiful, lyrical, vivid, and poetic filled with emotions but was slow paced for me. It was mostly set in 1970s Los Angeles, narrated from dual perspective from Barbara and her sister, alternatively which worked perfectly.
It started with Barbara dying from cancer and receiving bad news from her sister about the death of her love of life, very famous figure in music industry, Jasmine and at the same time police were there to talk to Barbara about it as Jasmine was murdered and at first police suspected Barbara as she was accused of stalking Jasmine by Jasmine’s family and neighbour. I was curious to find out what was the relationship between Barbara and Jasmine, how they met and separated, why she was accused of stalking and making her possible suspect, what went wrong between Barbara and her sister.
First chapter gave Barbara and her sister’ background– where and how they grew up, how was their relationship with their parents, their love for their mother, how their schooling was, being bullied and teased by teachers and students. As story progressed both Barbara and her sister talked about their relationship, their view for each other and towards life, what they did in life, how they didn’t reach the peak they dreamed of, what made them fail at living their dream, Barbara’s ailments and support of her mother and sister.
Characters were interesting and realistic. Barbara was born short but was good looking and intelligent. She was special student and everybody thought she was meant for college and to do something great but all her ailments, everybody’s expectations, and being lesbian in world that wasn’t kind to gay, sparked rebellion streak in her. She was dedicated to her study and towards her punk rock star band, she wanted her own identity, she had dream of becoming famous and she was very near to it but heartbreak happened, she was abandoned by her own band members and life went downhill for her from then on. Eventually, she went to college, became brilliant statistician and earned a lot of money but emotionally she was stuck in her heartbreak and her lost dream.
I felt for her at points. She was born pigeon toed and the treatments she had to go through at young age wasn’t easy for her. It sure wasn’t easy to have so many ailments in life- treatment for pigeon-toe, surgery for bladder problem, anorexia after breakup and then cancer. It was hard to think how she might have gone through all of these and how it might have affected her mental health. She sure was strong, resilient and brave but at the same time she let heartbreak have power over her life, it made her weak emotionally and mentally, she didn’t want to live or move on from Jasmine and her band who never looked back once they left her behind. I didn’t like how her band mates treated her, how she was abused and what she did on stage during their first real performance. It was gross and I feel she was too desperate to impress, to be loved, to be admired by her friends, band mates and specially by Jasmine. I can’t understand why she liked them in first place.
I sure admired her thoughts, straightforward and blunt nature, it was really great she came out about her being lesbian openly but She had her flaws and she wasn’t exactly likable person. I didn’t like how she forced others to be the same, like she wanted Jasmine being open about lesbian and reveal their relationship and when she didn’t, she called her fake which was wrong.
I didn’t like her for always criticising her sister. I do feel she was jealous of her sister for being straight, being sure of what she wanted to do in life without having to go to college, not having to fulfil their parent’s expectations and living her dream of belle dancer even for a while whereas she couldn’t and have to go to college. Whatever happened to her was sad but that doesn’t mean she could demean her sister, break her moral, making her feel small, call her failure and stupid, and then outing her from will and from their mother’s house was beyond my understanding. Barbara kept saying things about how her sister didn’t live properly or earned properly, didn’t give things her daughter asked for, couldn’t raise or provide her daughter properly while she herself didn’t have to rent house, lived in their mother’s house without extra expense all her life. She was lucky to have such sister who tolerated all she said.
I liked Barbara’s sister more than Barbara. Barbara thought she was selfish, careless, lazy, too common and unoriginal, self-centred, stupid, and ugly because of features of her face but I think she was really good. If I’m not wrong name of sister wasn’t revealed throughout the book. She was referred as ‘Barbara’s siter’ which told how she was shadowed by Barbara who was beautiful, intelligent and math-genius. Even though, Barbara put her out of her will, her sister stayed with her when she was dying. She compromised opportunity she got during the summer Barbara was suffering from anorexia so she could stay with her, keep an eye on her so Barbara couldn’t deteriorate her life more than it already was, so she and their mother put sense in Barbara and get her out of the situation. Only caring, loving and self-less person can do all these and yet Barbara never appreciated her even when she was dying. She never asked money for herself only suggested Barbara she should write her niece in will and that made her enemy and greedy! I don’t understand how? And I don’t think money she spent on muscle tear and pains she got from belle dancing was wrong like Barbara pointed out.
I liked the layers of gay rights, fame culture and its impact, fighting chronic disease, life comparisons of living near Hollywood and in New York, struggle of musician in competitive world, life of homeless, and humanity.
The suspense of whether Barbara had anything to do with Jasmine’s murder or not was good. At some point I was sure about it but then third half made me rethink it, and I kept thinking over her actions and steps she took, what if she hadn’t met all those people or decided not to out her sister from will. End was sad.
Why 3.5 stars-
It was too slow for me. I loved the prose and writing but I kept getting lost in poetic prose. It started with one topic and then it kept going on, one subject leading to other… I felt myself forgetting the main point by the time it returned to it. It felt distracting sometimes. As I said I didn’t like Barbara and I couldn’t understand her at some points.
Overall, Sisterhood of the Infamous realistic, sad, and multi-layered poetic Literary Fiction. I recommend to readers who enjoy poetic prose and Literary fiction / women’s fiction.
What do you think about the book and review? Have you read this book or any book by the same author? Have you read a book with fame culture layer or theme? if so, which was your favourite?
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