When is a debt ever fully paid?
Penny and Hattie are sisters in a small town, bound tight to the point of knots. They share a secret they cannot escape, even while it pulls them apart. One night, a match is lit, and Penny’s terrible husband is killed – a marriage going up in flames, and offering the potential of a new life. The sisters retreat into their family home – a house of secrets and memories – and try to live in the shadow of what they put in motion. But Penny’s husband is not the only thing they are hiding, from the outside world and from each other. Under a cloud of long-held resentments, sibling rivalry, and debts unpaid, the bonds of sisterhood begin to crack. How long will Penny and Hattie demand the unthinkable of each other? How often will they say, “You owe me,” and when will it ever be enough?
Set in the small Canadian town of St. Margaret's, Petrou's riveting debut finds Penny Grayson, the book's eloquent narrator, and her younger sister, Hattie, sharing their family home after the death of Penelope's abusive husband, Buddy, in a fire. Penny, the director of the town's day care center, and Hattie, who works at the beauty salon, have settled into a relatively comfortable routine. However, the delicate balance of their lives changes when a handsome stranger, Jameson Leung, comes to teach at the local school. For the sisters, his arrival "was like the moon dropped out of the sky and broke open like an orange." Soon they're competing for Jameson's affections. The women's complicated relationship made up of shifting emotions of rage, jealousy, guilt, grief, and profound love is repeatedly tested. Meanwhile, the question of what really happened to Buddy hovers over the novel. The plot may be a tad melodramatic, but it moves swiftly toward the shocking answer to that question. Readers will be keen to see what Petrou comes up with next.