Small World” by Laura Zigman

Review by Amy Atzert, collection development librarian

Joyce Mellishmen invites her older sister Lydia to move in after Lydia’s divorce. Joyce, newly divorced herself, feels like it is the right thing to do. Maybe now the two of them can finally develop the close relationship they have been missing since they were children. Lydia agrees to move from the West Coast to join Joyce in Massachusetts.   

The two sisters grew up with their severely disabled sister Eleanor who died when she was 10.  Eleanor took up so much of their parents’ time both girls felt like there wasn’t enough time or affection for the two of them.They were so busy putting Eleanor’s feelings first they didn’t really get to talk about their own feelings or what made them happy or sad. Each day their mother Louise was on a mission to make sure Eleanor’s life was as normal as possible, all the while Joyce and Lydia felt like it wasn’t normal for them.  

When Lydia moves in things don’t go as smoothly as Joyce had hoped. Lydia seems moody and quiet instead of appreciative and happy. New neighbors running a loud and suspicious business upstairs make Joyce furious while Lydia is all for it. Joyce struggles to keep things civil and dives deeper into the neighborhood site Small World where she examines other peoples issues and problems while avoiding her own. Lydia seems to be out of the apartment more than she is home. What is she doing anyway? Where is she going? The story comes to a head when Joyce decides the living arrangement is just not working out as she hoped and the relationship with her sister is getting worse not better. She might have to take some drastic measures to ensure she doesn’t lose her mind.

This is a beautiful story told with deep emotion. A story of family, pain, and reconciliation. The plot goes back and forth between childhood memories and the present so the reader gets to dig into Joyce and Lydia’s experiences. I kept hoping that the sisters would open up to each other and get to the healing they both so desperately wanted.