Nalo Hopkinson’s Sister Mine (2013) is a refreshingly unique stand-alone fantasy novel featuring characters, settings, and situations that you’ve never seen before. Makeda and her twin sister Abby were conjoined at birth. Now that they are separated, they each suffer some sort of loss. Abby’s loss is obvious — her body isn’t formed quite right and she has some physical deficits. Makeda’s loss is less obvious — she does not have the mojo that her sister got from their unusual parents… or so she thinks.
Desperate to get out from under the wing of her protective twin sister, Makeda is moving into her own apartment. She wants to live her own life in a world where she doesn’t feel like she’s malformed. But in her new apartment complex, she meets an attractive young man who may have his own sort of mojo, and then her father disappears and it may be Makeda’s fault. As Makeda and Abby try to set things right, Makeda discovers that she may not be able to escape her weird family and she learns a lot more about them and, most importantly, some shocking things about herself.
There were many aspects of Sister Mine that I really loved — the unique characters (ever seen conjoined twins in a fantasy novel before?), the Canadian setting (yet Caribbean feel), the celebration of music, the juxtaposition of the magical with the mundane, and the protagonist’s struggle to find her own identity. Also, Hopkinson’s lovely prose and wit. Makeda makes a sympathetic character — she’s vulnerable and needy, yet strong-willed and determined to make her own way. I liked her most of the time, though occasionally I thought she was more immature than she should have been at her age.
Hopkinson’s plot is sometimes bizarre and it’s pretty “loose,” meaning that not everything that happened seemed important to the overall story and some of it is silly.
There was one aspect of the novel that really turned me off, but to mention it would be a spoiler, so if you want to know about it, highlight the following text: Makeda and Abby have an incestuous relationship. This grossed me out. I feel like this was not necessary for the story but I may be wrong about that. The sisters are descended from gods and Hopkinson may have meant to show us their nonchalance about the kinds of activities humans find taboo. I enjoyed the story despite this, but would have enjoyed it more without.
I listened to LLC Dreamscape Media’s audio edition of Sister Mine which was excellently narrated by Robin Miles. It’s 11.5 hours long.