“They were not just my sisters, they were extensions of myself.”
Four daughters from four different fathers—not what comes to mind when you think of a typical family. But for Shelby, this is her life and nothing makes more sense to her than living with her free-spirited mother and loving sisters. To an unknowing eye, their tight-knit family is a model for dysfunction. However, Outside Beauty, a novel by Newberry Medal-Winning author Cynthia Kadohata, challenges the norm of a healthy household and shows how the strength of sisterhood a family together.
Having fathers scattered across the country doesn’t affect sisters Marilyn, Shelby, Lakey, and Maddie. Under their mother’s care in Chicago, the girls are taught about the importance of beauty and the importance of finding a man who is wealthy so as to benefit from his riches. Ok, so not the most deepest of tutorials, but she still unconditionally loves her children and raises them to be behaved, proper ladies.
When an unexpected accident occurs, the sisters are forced to leave the only home they’ve ever known and for the first time separate from one another to live with their fathers. Unsure of when they will meet again, the girls attempt to take matters into their own hands. Braving the forces that are against them, the sisters fight for each other, and in the process embark on adventure that tightens their bond.
The story is told through the eyes of Shelby, the second oldest sister at thirteen, who uses a level of seriousness and humor in her narrating. Unlike her older sister, Marilyn, she understands that her mother’s views and lifestyle are a little skewed. At times, she is the voice of reason in her family, understanding there is more to life then looks and men. When uprooted from their home and spread out, Shelby works hard to ensure that the isolation from her sisters won’t change who they are, even though change is inevitable.