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The Language of Sisters

The Language of Sisters

A Novel

  • reading group guide
Ten years ago, Nicole Hunter left her troubled home behind her, unable to cope with the demands of a life with her disabled sister, Jenny. Though her search for happiness—both in career and in love—has fallen short of her dreams, Nicole pretends that all is well. Then a shattering event turns her world upside down, and suddenly, she is back in her hometown, caring for her pregnant sister and trying to heal her embattled relationship with her mother.

Reunited with her family and forced to confront the guilt that haunts her, Nicole finally has the chance to be the sister she always wished she’d been. And when she is faced with the most difficult choice of her life, Nicole rediscovers the beauty of sisterhood—and receives a special gift that will change her life forever.
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  • Washington Square Press | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451688146 | 
  • July 2012
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Read an Excerpt


I was at work when it happened. I had just finished folding pungent wild blueberries into the creamy muffin batter, thinking how the brilliant purple streaks that trailed each berry stood out like a bruise against white skin. I was about to fill the greased-and-readied pan when something stopped me. Something tangible, like the thump of a fist against my chest—I felt it. I felt my sister’s voice for the first time in years, the way I used to feel it when we were children, coursing through me like my own blood, hearing her thoughts the way no one else could. Can you hear a whisper in your heart?... see more
• • •

At first, we had not known anything was wrong with Jenny. She had been such a stunning baby—much prettier than I ever was. When I was three and Jenny was a newborn, my mother took us to a small park in our neighborhood, where I could climb on the jungle gym while she held court and allowed other mothers to croon over her perfect second daughter.

Jenny came out of the womb with dark brown hair and skin creamy as milk splashed with brushstrokes of rosy peach. Her eyes were a deep, viscous indigo, huge and round in her tiny baby head, framed by rows of lashes so lush you longed to touch them to see if they were... see more
• • •

The midnight air in Seattle was sweet and cool, filling my lungs with much-needed relief from the packaged oxygen I had breathed on the plane. It was the middle of May, but a slight winter chill still tickled my skin as I stepped outside the terminal, the thin cotton sweater and worn Levi’s I had chosen as traveling clothes doing little to protect me from the elements. Sea-Tac Airport was quiet at this hour; only a few scattered taxis lined the pickup lane, and it wasn’t long before I was sitting in the back of one headed north on I-5 toward the West Seattle exit. I shivered violently as I shifted against the... see more

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Language of Sisters includes an introduction and discussion questions. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Nicole has simplified her life as much as possible. She has an uncomplicated job and a stress-free love life. Everything is more or less manageable until she gets a call from her mother to come home. As soon as Nicole’s plane lands in her home town of Seattle, everything begins to unravel. Her severely handicapped sister has been raped in her residential institution, and is five months pregnant. Racked with guilt and frustration, Nicole takes Jenny out of the institution and moves into her mother’s house to care for her. The emotional and physical strain of caring for a severely handicapped person threaten to defeat Nicole, but the warmth of an old friend and excitement of a new love interest buoy her spirits. Nicole must decide what she wants out of life: the quiet, structured existence she’d built for herself in San Francisco, or the messy, joyful unknown of returning to her roots in Seattle.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Nicole was trained as a therapist but she gave up her practice to become a baker. As a baker, she and her business partne see more

About the Author

Amy Hatvany
Author photograph © 2014 Alison Rosa

Amy Hatvany

Amy Hatvany is the author of Best Kept Secret, Outside the Lines, The Language of Sisters, Heart Like Mine,and Safe with Me. She lives in Seattle, Washington, with her family.




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