The bond between sisters can be a mystery to anyone outside the relationship. The shrill fights, the slapping, the name calling in girlhood. Then the quick evolution to best friends with requisite phone calls, jokes and secrets. But as close as two sisters can be, dregs of the antagonism from childhood can still rub the connection raw. Support for one another can devolve into jealousy and resentment, and a friendship can be tenuous at best. Such is the relationship between Rose Feller and her sister, Maggie. One is responsible, stable, plain. The other, fun, beautiful and foolish. Together, their dynamic is complex, tense and unstable – especially when a man is involved.
Plot Overview: Jealousy, Dysfunction and Sisters
After their mother’s death, Rose and Maggie, as children, grew in opposite directions. Rose, plump and practical, devoted herself to schoolwork and became a lawyer, though her life (and wardrobe) is drab and dull; her only indulgence is a beautiful collection of designer shoes. Maggie, on the other hand, became a party girl, overcompensating for her dyslexia and an inability to commit.
After Maggie loses yet another job and is evicted, she shows up on Rose’s doorstep. Rose reluctantly lets her in and tolerates Maggie’s raids into her closet (they share the same shoe size) and messy housekeeping. The final straw, however, comes when Maggie seduces Rose’s long-time crush. Rose kicks her out and curls up to lick her emotional wounds.
Maggie, at loose ends, discovers that she has a grandmother, Ella Hirsch, living in Florida. Ella had tried to reach out to her granddaughters, had written letters, but Maggie and Rose’s father kept them hidden after his wife’s death. Curious – and having nowhere else to go – Maggie seeks out her long-lost grandparent.
While Maggie and Ella formulate a plan to earn Rose’s forgiveness, Rose finds herself a little lost as well. She takes a sabbatical from work to focus on her new career, dog walking, and inadvertently starts a new relationship. Although the sisters’ lives are carrying on, both feel a little empty without the other. Honesty (and a reunion) may be the only remedy for their broken friendship.
Criticisms and Compliments
Although In Her Shoes is considered to be chick lit – and it certainly has its humorous moments – it also has a certain melancholic tone (e.g. Rose and Maggie’s mother’s tragic death, the lack of a connection they’re allowed with their father due to their stepmonster, Sydelle’s, intrusion, their arguing over men and ambitions). It seems, with these two, there is always an undercurrent of envy. It is just a little bit sad, especially for a reader who is close with her sister. No relationship is ever all roses and light, but sisters have a special bond, one worth preserving.
While the book is a wonderful read, the movie, In Her Shoes, starring Toni Collette, Cameron Diaz and Shirley Maclaine, is not quite as satisfying. It’s not as funny, not as poignant, but credit must be given to the talented cast. It’s a well-acted, nicely paced film that respects a nicely paced novel. Read In Her Shoes first, as usual, then watch the movie.
- Weiner, Jennifer. In Her Shoes. Washington Square Press (Reprint edition), 2003 ISBN 9780743418201