The Sausage Maker’s Daughter is the debut novel by Ags Johnson, a woman who grew up surrounded by other women, and this familiarity is evidenced by the complicated tangle of relationships that fill the pages of The Sausage Maker’s Daughter. If anyone ever wondered what it would be like to grow up with sisters, this novel might make them re-think any desire they ever had to be part of such a family.
Part journey-to-the-past and part soap opera, The Sausage Maker’s Daughter tells the tale of Kip Czermanski, accused of murdering her brother-in-law…who just so happens to be her ex-lover. Set in the 1970s, the novel flashes back to Kip’s rebellious childhood in her tiny Wisconsin hometown, a childhood which always had her at odds with her beautiful, blonde, perfect older sisters. It also recounts her wilder college days as a member of the Counter Culture movement, protesting everything from war to women’s rights.
Her troubled history now comes back to haunt her as she finds herself accused of murdering the first man she ever loved: her former professor turned brother-in-low, who ended up naked—and dead—under circumstances Kip cannot quite recall. Her widowed sister, Sybel, who has always hated Kip, does nothing to help the case, concerned as she always has been of maintaining the family’s prominent image.
The Sausage Maker’s Daughter flows seamlessly between the present—Kip’s trial for murder—and the past, bringing to life Kip’s childhood, and making the reader understand her overwhelming desire to cut all ties with her family. The sisters’ relationships are vivid and complex, tangled with truths and old animosities. The trial itself is full of painful memories as well as a surprising twist that leaves everyone—Kip included—reeling.