In SISTERS OF THE VINE, Linda Rosen presents the sympathetic and well-drawn Liz Bergen, a woman who is finding herself in the midst of marital discord and a risky grape farm venture. Liz always planned to graduate college and do great things, but it seemed like this wasn’t in the cards. Instead, she finds herself married with two children, adopting her husband Rick’s dream as her own. Rick always wanted to own a farm, so the family buys a plot of land in upstate New York and they begin planting crops. One of Rick’s colleagues tells him about grape hybrids and they decided to start growing them. Their efforts are successful and Liz feels gratified and proud, soon coming up with plans for a winery. However, life on the farm is far from idyllic, as Rick becomes increasingly hostile and distant. He begins drinking and staying out all hours of the night, and it soon becomes apparent to Liz that he is having an affair. Her marriage falls apart just as she discovers what seems like her true purpose in life.
The high point of the novel is the friendship that develops between Liz and a woman named Bobbi, a former student of Rick’s, who comes to help out on the farm. It is Bobbi who gives Liz the strength to stand up to her abusive husband and to take charge of her newfound goals. What’s more, when it comes time to harvest, Bobbi and Liz recruit some other women from the neighborhood to help out, forming something of a collective. It is inspiring to see these women work together while also supporting Liz when she needs it most.
Rick is a bit cartoonishly villainous with the litany of sins assigned to him, from drinking to smoking pot to cheating and even becoming violent with Liz, but certainly such men existed in the 1960s and still do today. The story is well-suited to its historical setting, as Liz is coming into her own during second-wave feminism. This element is integrated into the plot seamlessly. Before working on the farm, Liz is a nursery school teacher, a job she enjoys because it gives her a sense of purpose and an identity outside of the home. “Even if it was with more children, it was her outlet,” Rosen writes, “She wasn’t just Rick’s wife and Bethany and Noah’s mommy. Betty Friedan had it right. Kristin had given her the book, The Feminine Mystique, and she devoured it. Practically every page was dog-eared.” However, there are some temporal references that are shoehorned in and serving no apparent purpose, such as the random inclusion of JFK’s assassination.
SISTERS OF THE VINE is a sweet, tender novel about a woman finding her calling at a tumultuous time with the help of other women.
~Lisa Butts for IndieReader