The Sisters K

Maureen Sun

“You’re my sister, but I’m not sure I love you. I’m not sure I love anyone. But if someone hurt you I’d want to kill him. I’d want him to die in pain. And he has hurt you…”

After years of estrangement, Minah, Sarah, and Esther have been forced together again. Called to their father’s deathbed, the sisters must confront a man little changed by the fact of his mortality. Vicious and pathetic in equal measure, Eugene Kim wants one thing: to see which of his children will abject themselves for his favor— and more importantly, his fortune. From their childhood in California to the depths of a mid-Atlantic winter, the solitary sisters Kim must face a brutal past colliding with their present. Grasping at their broken bonds of sisterhood, they will do what is necessary to escape the tragedy of their circumstances—whatever the cost. 

For Minah, the eldest, the money would be recompense for their father’s cruelty. A practicing lawyer with an icy pragmatism, she dreams of a family of her own and sets to work on securing her inheritance. For Sarah, a gifted and embittered academic who wields her intelligence like a weapon, confronting her father again forces her to reckon with the desperation of her present life. It is left to the youngest— directionless and loving Esther— to care for their father in her lonely quest to do right by everyone. A fortune pales in comparison to the prospect of finally reuniting with her sisters. 

With a legacy of violence haunting their lives, the sisters dare to imagine a better future even as their father’s poison courses through their blood. A contemporary reimagining of Dostoevsky’s dark classic, The Brothers Karamazov, Maureen Sun’s brilliant debut is a vivid and visceral exploration of rage, shame, and the betrayals of intimacy.

Praise for The Sisters K

"Razor-sharp, this passionate book dissects the unfolding tragedy of a family strung between two worlds, and the warring currents of love and revenge that bind them together. A tour-de-force debut."
Cynthia Zarin, author of Inverno: A Novel and Next Day: New and Selected Poems

"In a story rippling with emotional insight, Sun renovates the grand tradition of the psychological novel with her fearless rigor. Vengeance, righteousness, lies, and even the challenge of selfless charity—no impulse goes unexamined, and no crisp judgment survives, in the white hot tongs of this masterful debut novel."
Benjamin Lytal, author of A Map of Tulsa

"With unflinching prose and psychological acuity, Maureen Sun articulates the strangled, dysfunctional intimacy of three Korean-American sisters raised by an abusive patriarch. I was fascinated by their contradictions, resentments, and burgeoning tenderness toward each other. Her characters snake their way through you and linger. Despite its dark themes, the novel ultimately delivers what all three sisters long for: grace. A feverish, stunning debut."
Chin-Sun Lee, author of Upcountry

"Clear-sighted and unafraid, The Sisters K is astoundingly perceptive in its insights about human nature. It is also beautifully written, its emotional intelligence apparent in every passage. This is, simply put, an excellent novel."
Ling Ma, author of Severance and Bliss Montage

"Amid the thousands of novels based on familial drama, The Sisters K stands as a true original. It is an intense, subtle and extremely complex story of love and hate, and, beyond that, the mystery of biological and emotional ties. In drawing her anguished, gallant characters, Maureen Sun has almost invented a new way of describing the inner lives of humans; it is an achievement."
Mary Gaitskill,

"There's a brutal misogynist logic that underpins Korean patriarchal culture and yet it is so rarely dramatized this intimately in Korean American fiction; here it organizes every part of these sisters' lives, as it does for so many. Chilling, tender, fierce and sharp, the resulting novel is an inheritance drama where everyone is running from their family, one of the most original novels about sisters and family I've read in some time."
Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel

"Sun patiently translates the core values of Dostoevsky’s timeless work into the idioms of late capitalism, where the sisters’ available identities are refracted through the prism of not one but two paternalistic societies—Korean and American. The result is a book that does far more than retell a classic tale: it constructs a whole new vocabulary to discuss the most central of human conundrums: how to love and be loved in return. A deeply intelligent examination of the ties that both define and bind our lives."
Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

"In Sun’s inspired debut, three Korean American sisters and their half brother reunite in the present day... The revelations and reconciliations that ensue make for a fascinating update on the age-old theme of filial piety. Sun marks herself as a writer to watch."
Publishers Weekly,

"Striking a balance between stoicism and fervency, The Sisters K pierces into the heart of suffering, delivering a breathtaking debut… Sun’s novel is a sophisticated study of characters' motivations… [and] herein lies the genius of [her] writing: an all-encompassing reach into the emotional depths of each character, eliciting the self-contained worldview of each..."