Review: The Cuckoo Sister by Alison Stockham (2023)


Perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty and Celeste Ng.

You want your sister to have all her heart desires.

But – what if she wants your children?

Maggie has everything her sister Rose always wanted. A handsome husband and two adorable children, Emily and Elliot.

But what Rose doesn’t see is that Maggie is struggling. Every day is a fog of sleep loss and mess made by two tiny children. Left alone in her distress by husband Stephen, Maggie drifts ever closer to the edge.

When Maggie finally cracks, walking out one day and not returning, Rose is right there to step into the breach . . .

You trust your sister to look after your children. But should you?


Many thanks to the author for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

At first glance, The Cuckoo Sister looked to be a little outside of my usual genres – I don’t read very many thrillers, although I do enjoy the occasional foray! However, on reading, I discovered that the novel is more nuanced than the tagline might suggest. It’s more psychological family drama than straight-up thriller, and I found the subtleties and complexities of the book really intriguing.

The writing is confident and pacey, and as we flick between the two sisters’ points of view, a complex picture emerges. What I found really clever about The Cuckoo Sister is the way it constantly made me reassess my assumptions. Every time I made a snap judgement about a character, I’d find my opinion unravelling in the next few chapters, and I became really invested in trying to figure out what was for the best. You know it is a strong story when the central dilemma has you just as worked up about it as the characters are!

Conversely, I sometimes found myself sympathising with a character, nodding along, only for them to go a step to far and for me to recoil at having empathised with them. It’s a morally grey, tangled situation, and I loved puzzling it all out and thinking about the wider implications.

Underpinning the narrative is the important message that families are messy, complex, imperfect; that mistakes, even huge ones, do not make someone inherently ‘bad,’ and that there is always more to a situation than meets the eye. The ending left me thinking for a long time, and I can imagine this book being ripe for discussion – lots of juicy issues to get stuck into!

The Cuckoo Sister is a strong debut, and I look forward to reading more from this author.

The Cuckoo Sister by Alison Stockham is published by Boldwood Books and is available to purchase here. It was an Amazon First Reads pick last month.