Review: The Tender Grave by Sheri Reynolds

The Tender Grave is the gripping story of two estranged sisters who find their unlikely way toward forgiveness—and each other—through a disturbing set of circumstances.

Cover Design: Ann McMan


From the author of The New York Times #1 bestseller, The Rapture of Canaan, and steeped in the rich tradition of Southern writers like Carson McCullers and Sue Monk Kidd, The Tender Grave is a gripping story of two estranged sisters who find their unlikely way toward forgiveness— and each other—through a gruesome and disturbing set of circumstances.

Dori, at age 17, participates in a hate crime against a gay boy from her school and runs away to escape prosecution—and her own harrowing childhood. In her pocket, she carries the address of an older, half-sister she’s never met. She has no idea that her sister Teresa is married to another woman. When Dori and Teresa finally meet, they’re forced to confront that, while they don’t like or really even understand one another, they are inextricably bound together in ways that transcend their differences. Together, the sisters discover that shifting currents of family and connection can sometimes run deeper than the prevailing tides of abandonment and estrangement.

In The Tender Grave, Sheri Reynolds weaves complex themes of parenting, forgiveness, guilt, and accountability into a lyrical and lushly-woven tapestry that chronicles our enduring search for heart, home, and healing.5

I love this cover by Ann McMan. It suggests an openness and willingness to accept what comes. Mind you I am critiquing after having read the story.

Sheri Reynolds takes a chance writing a dislikeable character such as Dori in The Tender Grave. Be warned there are acts of homophobia. There are also racist and homophobic comments. This is not a happy story.

The Tender Grave is the point of view of Dori, who is only seventeen-years-old. Reynolds showcases the dilemma of a teenager growing up influenced by an unstable environment. The choices that can be made in the spur of the moment. Then the permanent impact of those choices.

“…just because love isn’t enough doesn’t mean it isn’t real.”

Jen to Teresa, loc 2996

The Tender Grave also tells the view of Dori’s half-sister Teresa. Teresa has never met Dori until she shows up on her doorstep. This is not the best time as Teresa and her wfie Jen are trying to have a baby. They also purchased a run-down hotel and are remodeling it as their income allows. Dori’s presence brings forth a past that Teresa thought she had dealt with and put aside.

Reynolds doesn’t give us easy answers as Teresa and Dori struggle with how family can impact you and how long you will let it own you.

Reading this story can make you wince, but then so can life. Reynolds does not let up on this realistic story – not even on the last page. The Tender Grave is deep, dark, and honest. Take a deep breath and dive into The Tender Grave, it’s worth the trip.

I received an ARC of this book and I am writing a review without prejudice and voluntarily.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

 “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.” at no additional cost to you.

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Further Details:

Publisher: Bywater Books, 978-1612941936, 16 March 2021

Editor: Salem West & Elizabeth Sims; Narrator: Julie McKay

Series: N/A; Settings: NC, VA, U.S.

Pages: 196

A An edited version was previously posted on Amazon on 26 June 2021.


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