Despite her advanced age and failing health, nonagenarian Julia Brannon is a stubbornly independent woman. She refuses her daughter’s offer to move in with them and insists on living in a retirement home. Unable to argue, her daughter and grand-daughter, who for their individual reasons want to hold on to Julia’s memories, gift her with a laptop on which she can record in writing the events of her past.
As Julia looks back at her past, she records memories of her identical twin sister Jane and their disparate personalities, yet intertwined lives. From learning about sex and falling in love, to coping with the tragedies of their individual lives, she notes down the stories of her and “Sissa” — the nickname both sisters used for each other.
In the present, Julia meets Lena Kohn at the retirement home. Also a twin, who lost her sister at Auschwitz, Lena’s memory is failing, and driving her back into the terrifying events from her past. Despite Julia’s efforts to draw her back into the present, Lena’s regressions are harder to break. Interactions with other residents of the facility force a cantankerous and argumentative Julia to face up to her own privileged past and people’s prejudices — particularly anti-Semitic ones — propelling her to develop more empathy.
Julia also meets Daniel for second chance at friendship and love. As their mutual respect grows, so does his curiosity about her secretive past. Soon, he uncovers a family secret that pulls Julia out of the web of deception she has spun around herself and her family in order to protect those she loves.
Shuttling between past and present over the span of almost a century, The Other Sister weaves personal, local and global histories into an intricate narrative tapestry to form the heart of this story. Although the cycle of history may eternally recur, its effect on Julia, singular and personal, is life-altering.