Our August Front Porch Book Club Selection Is Lian Dolan's The Sweeney Sisters

Ashley Leath
Photo credit: Julia Ludham
Photo credit: Julia Ludham

From Country Living

Grab that sweet tea and pull up a seat as we dive in to one book each month with the Country Living Front Porch Book Club, capping each month with a chat with the authors themselves. Our August selection is Lian Dolan's fiction novel The Sweeney Sisters !

August in Alabama isn't easy. Sweltering temperatures keep me (and my sensitive skin) trapped inside for want of shade and air-conditioning while blue skies beckon me outdoors. But summer-reading lists bursting with lighthearted gems are a welcome remedy to this annual quandary, and one I'm happy to indulge. So when the cheery cover of The Sweeney Sisters by Lian Dolan (who produces a podcast with—surprise, surprise!—her sisters) came across my desk, I set aside a Saturday, filled up my glass with blackberry lemonade, and curled up with the sisters of Willow Lane.

Set in the seaside village of Southport, Connecticut, The Sweeney Sisters follows Liza, Maggie, and Tricia as they navigate the months after their famous father's untimely death. Their dad's passing is a shock and leaves each of his daughters grappling with how best to handle life without the man who was both complicated and a father figure at the same time ("the only thing that humbled him was fatherhood. He was in awe of his daughters"). His literary standing as a well-known author touched each of their lives, and as the story unfolds, we watch the sisters grapple with their childhood memories of a life in the shadow of a public figure and artist. (If it sounds too heavy for a summer read, take heart: Lightheartedness abounds, keeping the story centered on the bonds of sisterhood even in the midst of grief.)

While eldest sister Liza takes charge of planning for services and handling her late-father's beloved but downtrodden home, Willow Lane, youngest sister Tricia undertakes the search for her father's missing memoir, leaving Maggie, the middle sister, to flounder for her place in the quickly shifting family dynamic. Complicating it all is the biggest bombshell of all: the entrance of a fourth, previously unknown, Sweeney sister, Serena.

In alternating chapters, all four Sweeney sisters grant us peeks into their childhoods and the lives of the Sweeney household in Willow Lane and Southport (a character unto itself!). The complicated emotions of grief are explored as each sister experiences them and processes how they feel in the wake of their dad's passing. The story unfolds—humorous, cringeworthy, painful, and heartfelt—with the relationships of the sisters as its guiding center, creating a nuanced portrait of four women coming into their own, individually and with each other. Throw in Fourth of July on the coast, a family home begging for the Nancy Meyer's treatment, the spark of a romance or two, and you have the recipe for a summer read that's fun and pulls on the heartstrings. As fourth-sister Serena says, "A family by birth and by choice. I can be one of them." And a few hundred pages, we can be, too.

COUNTRY LIVING FRONT PORCH BOOK CLUB FOR AUGUST 2020

Selection: The Sweeney Sisters by Lian Dolan (available via local bookstores, Amazon, or Bookshop)
Start reading with us August 1.
Send Lian your questions! August 19 and 20 via Country Living's Instagram Stories.
Tune in to our Instagram Stories as Lian answers your questions and chats about

The Sweeney Sisters on August 31.

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