The Next Chapter

The relationship between sisters can be complicated. That's why Andrea Gunraj wrote a whole novel about it

The Lost Sister is about two sisters, Alisha and Diana, whose lives are steeped in tragedy when one goes missing and is found murdered. 
Andrea Gunraj is an essayist and novelist based in Toronto. (Mango Studios2, Vagrant Press)
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Andrea Gunraj is a Toronto-based essayist and novelist. Her debut novel, The Sudden Disappearance of Seetha, was published in 2009.

Her latest is The Lost Sister, a novel about two sisters, Alisha and Diana, whose lives are steeped in tragedy when one goes missing and is found murdered. 

The Lost Sister is partially inspired by the experiences of a former resident of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children. 

Gunraj spoke with The Next Chapter about why she wrote the book. 

Sibling dynamics

"The Lost Sister is a story about two sets of sisters. One set, Alisha and Diana, and the other set, Paula and Ave. Alisha and Diana are young people who are living in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood in 1990s Toronto. Paula and Ave's story starts out in the 1940s at the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children.

"Diana and Alisha's dynamic is related to this idea of being from an immigrant family where they have pressure on them to perform in a particular way — be the star in the family — and be the reason why their parents immigrated. 

There's a protective dynamic between the sisters — but the protectiveness is not necessarily seen the same way from both sides.- Andrea Gunraj

"For Paula and Ave, their dynamic is very much affected by the trauma of being taken from their home and institutionalized by child welfare systems that don't necessarily have the tools to support them and give them what they need.

"There's a protective dynamic between the sisters — but the protectiveness is not necessarily seen the same way from both sides. There's a bit of resentment and bitterness in that protective dynamic."

Doing it for themselves

"Sisters are so interesting to me. I find that sisters are one of the under-explored relationships in today's fiction. I was really inspired by the idea that sisters do love and hate each other. 

"Sometimes they have competition with each other, but they want to emulate one another many times.

Sometimes they have competition with each other but they want to emulate one another many times.- Andrea Gunraj

"I was really drawn to the idea of different kinds of sisters and how they might have intersecting dynamics — and where they might have their own unique dynamic."

Andrea Gunraj's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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