All Harriet Szâasz has ever known is life onstage with her twin sister, Josie. As "The Sisters Sweet," they pose as conjoined twins in a vaudeville act conceived of by their ambitious father and managed by their practical mother, who were once theatrical stars in their own rights. Then, in an explosive act, Josie exposes the fraud in a spectacular fashion and runs away to Hollywood.
... an elegant, immersive family saga ... the city comes to vivid life beneath Weiss’s capable hand ... Though slow-moving and often melancholy, The Sisters Sweet is an intimate exploration of sisterhood, identity, ambition and betrayal. It forces us to ask who we are if the very thing that should make us unique — our face — is shared by another who takes it and becomes famouss in the process. The novel does a fine job of answering that question and gives us plenty of surprises along the way.
Harriet’s astute and descriptive narration is interspersed with flashbacks of Maude and Lenny’s own ill-fated careers in show business. Readers who enjoy bittersweet, coming-of-age stories like Anna Quindlen’s Miller’s Valley (2016) or The Distance Home by Paula Saunders (2018) will root for Harriet.
While the transitions between these stories within stories—sometimes taking place in a single chapter—can be jarring, they serve to humanize Harriet and her family. There are deep, tragic elements to this story, but Harriet does not dwell on them. The members of the Szász family, while odd, are easy to like. As Harriet grows, from passive observer of her own life to woman capable of choices, the coming-of-age theme heightens the story’s energy and focus ... This debut, by a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, is a multilayered celebration of female independence in the arts during an era that often demanded feminine conventionality. It should appeal to readers fascinated by women-centric takes on the theatrical world and the United States of the early 20th century.