Book Review: Oh, Sister

…you’d rather feel a river of pain than be a lake of nothing… at least then you know you bleed. At least then you know you’re not stone.

Jodie Chapman ~ Oh, Sister


Meet Isobel, Jen and Zelda. Three women whose bodies and minds are not their own.

They belong to the Church.

Life and death decisions are taken by others on their behalf. Who they might marry. Whether they start a family.

Isobel and Jen know nothing of the world. But when Isobel’s husband leaves her and Jen challenges those in charge, the Church turns its back on them.

Zelda – never one for doing what is expected – dares to find hope on the outside.

Meet Isobel, Jen and Zelda. Three women desperate to find a life to call their own…


Religion is often seen as something positive that brings people together and provides a sense of community and belonging; as we know from history, it can also lead people to start wars, torture and kill people, all in the name of God.

Starting with a truly traumatic event, Oh, Sister asks us to question what faith is and how far we would go for what we believe, even if it means turning against our friends and family.

Drawing on her own experiences, Jodie Chapman looks at a denomination of Christianity and how it treats its own when they go against the teachings of the Church. Although the specific religion is never named, readers can draw their own conclusions – although I would recommend doing further research if you’re interested.

Oh, Sister is a very tough read, yet at its heart is a story of hope, faith and love. The three women whose lives we follow are all struggling with what they believe, and what their heart tells them. Zelda has never looked back, but what happened to her destroyed her family. Jen has suffered so much loss and yet through no fault of her own has been ostracised and shunned; struggling to break free, she clings to her faith, desperate to be forgiven and welcomed back. Isobel’s journey is perhaps the most difficult to overcome, but also the most satisfactory as we see her grow as a person and get an ending she deserves.

Chapman writes well, enveloping us in the story, ensuring that whilst we sympathise with all the women, we also want to shake them for being so naïve and failing to realise the control the Church has over them. What makes this book so powerful – and indeed terrifying – is that there are religions that are coercive and manipulative, where women are seen as inferior to men and little more than vessels for procreation and spreading the word of God.

It would have been helpful to have more insight into the positives of the religion, as it feels a bit one-sided at times; there is also one chapter that could be removed, as it adds nothing to the story, merely more unnecessary sadness. Apart from that, there is little to fault in this book, which is as claustrophobic as it is shocking.

Powerful, evocative and heart-breaking, this book will frustrate, horrify and upset you. But I promise it’s worth it.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Thanks to Penguin Michael Joseph and Grazia Book Club for my proof copy. Opinions my own.

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