The best books about complicated sister relationships

Why am I passionate about this?

As an unwilling only child, I have been fascinated my entire life with stories of large, sprawling, emotional families, to the point where cutting my list down to 5 was extremely difficult. I’ve written for almost as long—ever since I realized, somewhere around second grade, that someone had to write all those books I took out of the library. Why couldn’t it be me? Historical fiction is my favorite to both read and write, and I have recently begun writing a series set in my native Philadelphia.

I wrote...

Coming Apart

By Karen Heenan,

Book cover of Coming Apart

What is my book about?

No one knows you like a sister.

Ava has always been poor, so she doesn't think the Great Depression will change anything. But when her mother dies and her coal miner husband loses his job, Ava's certainty falters. The last thing she needs is a letter from her estranged sister, asking for the impossible. Claire has everything she could ever want, except the child she promised her husband. When her sister's life falls apart, she reaches out to help—and finds the missing piece of her own marriage. With everything at stake, Ava must choose: give up one child to save the rest or keep the family together and risk losing it all.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Sense and Sensibility

Karen Heenan Why did I love this book?

I almost chose Pride and Prejudice, but although the Bennet sisters are more numerous, the Dashwoods have a more interesting and complex family dynamic. Eleanor, the eldest, keeps her thoughts and feelings well hidden, while Marianne, the middle sister, is all surface—beautiful, emotional, unrestrained in her words and actions, she couldn’t be more different. In combination with the youngest, Margaret, they squabble and misunderstand and pull against each other on the way to their assorted happy endings, but they never stop deeply caring for one another.

By Jane Austen,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Sense and Sensibility as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The wit of Jane Austen has for partner the perfection of her taste' Virginia Woolf

Jane Austen's subtle and witty novel of secrets and suppression, lies and seduction, brilliantly portrays a world where rigid social convention clashes with the impulses of the heart. It tells the story of two very different sisters who find themselves thrown into an unkind world when their father dies. Marianne, wild and impulsive, falls dangerously in love, while Elinor suffers her own private heartbreak but conceals her true feelings, even from those closest to her.

Edited with an Introduction by ROS BALLASTER

Book cover of Little Women

Karen Heenan Why did I love this book?

Little Women is possibly the first sister book most of us read. Beautifully characterized, each sister is distinct, and while the March family is very much in the world, it is also very much them against the world. The sisters always pull together in the end, even when they disagree. Even when Amy burns Jo's book. Though as a writer, I will never forgive her for that, and also as a writer, that was a huge red flag to Amy’s character which I think should have been explored more deeply.

By Louisa May Alcott,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked Little Women as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

Louisa May Alcott shares the innocence of girlhood in this classic coming of age story about four sisters-Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy.

In picturesque nineteenth-century New England, tomboyish Jo, beautiful Meg, fragile Beth, and romantic Amy are responsible for keeping a home while their father is off to war. At the same time, they must come to terms with their individual personalities-and make the transition from girlhood to womanhood. It can all be quite a challenge. But the March sisters, however different, are nurtured by their wise and beloved Marmee, bound by their love for each other and the feminine…

Book cover of Practical Magic

Karen Heenan Why did I love this book?

Orphaned Gillian and Sally Owens grew up with their magical aunts, but they come to womanhood with very different ideas about love and magic. Still, the bond of being sisters is the only one they can count on when things get tough—as they do. That’s when they discover that sisterhood (and reaching out to other women-as-sisters) is at least as strong as magic. (Also, while the movie has a stellar cast, it’s more of a Cliffs Notes guide to the bookthere’s so much more depth to Hoffman’s writing).

By Alice Hoffman,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Practical Magic as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*25th Anniversary Edition*-with an Introduction by the Author!

The Owens sisters confront the challenges of life and love in this bewitching novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Rules of Magic, Magic Lessons, and The Book of Magic.

For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in their Massachusetts town. Gillian and Sally have endured that fate as well: as children, the sisters were forever outsiders, taunted, talked about, pointed at. Their elderly aunts almost seemed to encourage the whispers of witchery, with their musty house and…

Book cover of Atonement

Karen Heenan Why did I love this book?

I have a hard time separating this book from its movie. But despite how visually stunning the film is, it can never do justice to the complicated relationship between precocious, wrong-headed Briony and her older sister, Cecilia in the same way as McEwan’s prose. It’s difficult to understand, until the end, that it’s not just Cecilia’s life—along with that of Robbie, her friend and would-be loverthat is turned upside-down by Briony's accusation. 

By Ian McEwan,

Why should I read it?

17 authors picked Atonement as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On the hottest day of the summer of 1934, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis sees her sister Cecilia strip off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house. Watching her is Robbie Turner, her childhood friend who, like Cecilia, has recently come down from Cambridge. By the end of that day, the lives of all three will have been changed for ever. Robbie and Cecilia will have crossed a boundary they had not even imagined at its start, and will have become victims of the younger girl's imagination. Briony will have witnessed mysteries, and committed a…

Book cover of Homegoing

Karen Heenan Why did I love this book?

A recent read for me, and an unforgettable one. Homegoing is a family saga stemming from two African half-sisters who never meet. This beautifully written book delves deeply into difficult topics and leaves the reader feeling as if they have undergone the same long and arduous journey. 

By Yaa Gyasi,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Homegoing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A BBC Top 100 Novels that Shaped Our World

Effia and Esi: two sisters with two very different destinies. One sold into slavery; one a slave trader's wife. The consequences of their fate reverberate through the generations that follow. Taking us from the Gold Coast of Africa to the cotton-picking plantations of Mississippi; from the missionary schools of Ghana to the dive bars of Harlem, spanning three continents and seven generations, Yaa Gyasi has written a miraculous novel - the intimate, gripping story of a brilliantly vivid cast of characters and through their lives the very story of America itself.…

You might also like...

Ballad for Jasmine Town

By Molly Ringle,

Book cover of Ballad for Jasmine Town

Molly Ringle Author Of Sage and King

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Novelist Editor Sociolinguist HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) Good witch

Molly's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

A human child raised by the fae is an uncommon thing. But Rafi was such a child.

Now grown, half-fae but mortal, he lingers on the edge of human society in Miryoku, a nearby town sharing a border with fae territory. He doesn’t want to join the human world properly; he just wants to play music with a local cover band and avoid the cruelest members of his fae family.

Then, he meets Roxana, and his world shifts. She’s a human metalworking witch, up for a friendly fling with Rafi before she and her twelve-year-old daughter move away from Miryoku at summer’s end. But Rafi and Roxana grow too fond of each other to let go easily, and worse still, they soon become enmeshed in a much larger storm of prejudice and violence between fae and humans.

Ballad for Jasmine Town

By Molly Ringle,

What is this book about?

A law-abiding metalworking witch and a form-shifting half-fae musician embark on a secret romance, but soon become caught in escalating tensions between fae and humans that threaten their hometown. The second story after the popular Lava Red Feather Blue comes alive in Ballad for Jasmine Town.

The town of Miryoku has ocean views, fragrant jasmine vines, and a thriving arts scene, including a popular nineties cover band. It also sits on the verge, sharing a border with fae territory, a realm of both enchantments and dangers.

Rafi has been unusual all his life: a human born to a fae mother,…

  • Coming soon!

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in sisters, Ghana, and witches?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about sisters, Ghana, and witches.

Sisters Explore 199 books about sisters
Ghana Explore 23 books about Ghana
Witches Explore 135 books about witches