Joshilyn Jackson

The Almost Sisters

  • This summary of The Almost Sisters includes a complete plot overview – spoilers included!
  • We’re considering expanding this synopsis into a full-length study guide to deepen your comprehension of the book and why it's important.
  • Want to see an expanded study guide sooner? Click the Upvote button below.

The Almost Sisters Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson.

Set in the modern-day South, American author Joshilyn Jackson’s novel The Almost Sisters (2017) tells the story of Leia Birch Briggs, a comic book artist who returns to her small Alabama hometown just as the family she’s always known begins to implode. While picking up the pieces of the life-altering tragedies that rock her family, Leia gains deeper insights into the ties that bind and what it means to be a mother, a granddaughter, and a sister.

As the novel opens, 38-year-old Leia is at a comic book convention to promote her graphic novel, Violence in Velvet. While at the bar one night, she meets a black man in cosplay as Batman. He charms her, and the two sleep together, but she never learns his name. A few months later, Leia discovers she is pregnant. The surprise is not unwelcome, but she does fear how her traditional Southern family will react.

When the fetus—whom Leia names Digby—starts kicking, she knows its time to break the news to her family. She returns to Birchville, looking forward to telling her grandmother, Birchie, that she is going to be a great-grandmother. However, when Leia arrives, Birchie is not the woman Leia remembers.

Birchie, who lives with an African American friend, Wattie, starts behaving erratically and embarrassingly, with no concept of her actions or consequences. The whole town of Birchville suspects something is seriously wrong with her. Leia consults her stepsister, Rachel, for insights. Rachel’s husband, Jake, was Leia’s best friend when they were both in high school, but their friendship ended after they slept together one night. To this day, Rachel doesn’t know that they once had sex.

When Leia finds Rachel, Rachel is unkempt and shaken up. She and Jake have just had an intense fight, and their 13-year-old daughter Lavender has seen it all. As Leia tries to comfort her stepsister, she receives a text that Birchie needs help.

Leia returns to Birchie, bringing Lavender with her. On the ride there, Lavender learns about Digby. Once they get to Birchie, Leia realizes that her grandmother can no longer live alone, and she makes plans for both Birchie and Wattie to move into a nursing home. They don’t want to go but eventually seem to come around. Leia hires an estate company to sort through the belongings in the house. Meanwhile, Wattie and Birchie steal Leia’s rental car and crash it. When Leia gets the car back, she discovers long-dead human remains in the trunk and alerts the authorities.

Rachel arrives in Birchville and reveals the truth about her marriage: Jake is ready to leave her and Lavender and their finances are in shambles. Meanwhile, Lavender finds on Facebook a man she thinks is Leia’s Batman and gives her his profile information. Leia messages him to see if he is acceptable father material.

At church one day, one of the women from town suggests to Leia that Birchie murdered her own father, Ellis Birch. Later, Leia calls her friend Frank, and he confirms that the rumor is likely true and that Birchie hit Ellis over the head with a hammer, killing him. Birchie herself admits it when Leia confronts her, and Wattie confesses that she helped cover up the crime.

That night, Leia finds Lavender sneaking out with Frank’s son, Hugh, to toilet paper a neighbor’s yard. This was the same neighbor who told Leia about Ellis’s murder. When the neighbor pulls a gun on Lavender and Hugh, Leia ushers the two kids back to Birchie’s, where Jake waits on the front porch. Before turning in, Leia contacts her Batman and tells him she’s pregnant.

The next day, Batman—a.k.a. Selcouth Martin—arrives at Birchie’s. The spark between Leia and Selcouth remains, and they embark on the first tentative steps of a serious relationship. Then, Birchie screams from inside the house. They find her stabbing a painting of her father with a fork. Though the excitement in the Birch household is palpable, Selcouth must eventually return to Atlanta, and he invites Leia to join him when her business in Birchville is wrapped up.

The state launches an investigation into the remains. The cops come to take DNA samples from Birchie and Wattie. When the police are occupied with something else, Leia switches the names on the DNA tests. Later, Birchie tells her that it doesn’t matter that she switched the names because both Birchie and Wattie have the same DNA: They are both Ellis’s daughters. Birchie killed him because he had been raping Wattie’s mother for years.

As the novel concludes, Leia moves to Birchville to be near Birchie in her last days. Leia writes a sequel to Violence in Velvet. After she gives birth to her son, whom she names James and not Digby, great-grandmother and great-grandson get to have one beautiful meeting before Birchie dies peacefully.