After the death of her parents, Jessie Broward takes her 17-year-old sister Carrie under her care. Despite worrying about financial matters, Jessie, an optometrist assistant, gets Carrie a job at the movie theater and life is good for them. An Arab man named Zamel, however, challenges the sisters’ bond when Carrie falls in love and marries him without Jessie’s blessing. Failing her secret relationship with her own boss, Jessie feels lonely without Carrie whom she’s convinced is miserable in a marriage with a man who’s under the watchful eye of the authorities.
Sister Carrie by William H. Coles is a literary novella that examines the challenges of staying true to one’s value and judging the adolescent love between two people deemed incompatible in rural southern America. The story takes a rather frank look into the familial bond and responsibility between two orphaned sisters as well as the changes in life that challenge their faith and trust towards the people around them. It has an intriguing plot that kept my interest from start to finish. That said, several aspects of the story might alienate some readers.
I found none of the characters particularly likable except for Jessie who’s trying to be the surrogate parent to the best of her capability, despite her own problems and shortcomings. Another character, Harold Lester, has a slightly vague part in the story and I wished there was more to tell about his ‘investigation’. The ending is abrupt but nonetheless wonderful for a religiously and socially provocative tale. All in all, William H. Coles’s Sister Carrie is a slightly unusual but swift and interesting read.