Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore – New Author on the Shelves – #Family – Sisters of the Undertow by Johnnie Bernhard

Delighted to welcome Johnnie Bernhard to the Cafe and Bookstore with her books and today I am featuring Sisters of the Undertow, a coming of age, family novel.

About the book

Sisters Kim and Kathy Hodges are born sixteen months apart in a middle-class existence parented by Linda and David Hodges of Houston, Texas. The happy couple welcomes their “lucky daughter” Kim, who is physically and mentally advanced. Following several miscarriages, Linda delivers “unlucky” Kathy at twenty-nine weeks, ensuring a life of cognitive and physical disabilities. Kathy enters public school as a special education student, while Kim is recognized as gifted.

Both sisters face life and death decisions as Houston is caught in the rip current of Hurricane Harvey. Kim learns the capricious nature of luck, while Kathy continues to make her own luck, surviving Hurricane Harvey, as she has survived all undertows with the ethereal courage of the resolute.

Sisters of the Undertow examines the connotations of lucky and unlucky, the complexities of sibling rivalry, and the hand fate delivers without reason.

One of the five star reviews for the book

Shanessa 5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, lyrical, haunting, and unforgettable….. Reviewed in the United States on June 9, 2020

“We were sisters,” Kim says. “I loved and hated her.”

Oh my goodness, what a gem of a book. As an only child, I find that I’m especially fascinated and mystified watching the sibling dynamic between my children. I’m equally fascinated by books exploring these complicated relationships. Sisters of the Undertow does a beautiful and heartbreaking job of doing just that.

I loved the Texas setting as I grew up in eastern NM in the 80s, which is basically an extension of West Texas. As much as I like books that take me to a place I’ve never been, there is just something special about a book that can take you back home.

I thought the characters were exceptionally well-written. I loved them and I hated them. I saw myself in both of them. Bernhard threw no punches in portraying the complexities of sisterhood, of showing all that is ugly and beautiful about families- and really, what is ugly and beautiful in us all.

Flawed characters that you are still completely invested in, beautifully descriptive writing, and a profound message of family and the ties that bind us, this book has it all. It’s one I’ll be thinking about for a long time

Read the recent reviews and buy the book: Amazon US – And: Amazon UK

Also by Johnnie Bernhard

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – And: Amazon UK –  Follow Johnnie: Goodreads – Website: Johnnie Bernhard Author – Facebook:  Author Johnnie Bernhard – Twitter@JABernhard – LinkedIn: Johnnie Bernhard

About Johnnnie Bernhard

A former teacher and journalist, Johnnie Bernhard is passionate about reading and writing. Her work(s) have appeared in the following publications: University of Michigan Graduate Studies Publications, Heart of Ann Arbor Magazine, Houston Style Magazine, World Oil Magazine, The Suburban Reporter of Houston, The Mississippi Press, the international Word Among Us, Southern Writers Magazine, The Texas Review, Southern Literary Review, and the Cowbird-NPR production on small town America essays.

A Good Girl (2017) was shortlisted in the 2015 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Writing Competition, as well as featured novel for panel discussion at the 2017 Mississippi and Louisiana Book Festivals. The novel was shortlisted in the 2017 Kindle Book Award for Literary Fiction, a nominee for the 2018 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, shortlisted by the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Fiction of the Year Award, and placed in the permanent collection of the Texas State Library and Archive Commission, Texas Center for the Book.

Johnnie’s second novel, How We Came to Be (2018) was a finalist in the 2017 Faulkner-Wisdom Competition. Named a “Must Read” by Southern Writers Magazine, the novel was featured for panel discussion for the 2018 Louisiana Book Festival and Mississippi Book Festival. It was selected for the 2019 Deep South Magazine recommended reading list and shortlisted by the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters for 2019 Fiction of the Year. It is the recipient of the Summerlee Book Prize, HM by the Center for History and Culture at Lamar University.

Her third novel, Sisters of the Undertow (2020) was chosen for discussion at the 2020 national AWP Conference, the Pat Conroy Literary Center of South Carolina, the Southern Book Festival/Humanities Tennessee, and Words and Music Literary Feast of New Orleans. It was an official selection for the 2020 international Pulpwood Queens Book Club and Deep South Magazine’s recommended reading list for 2020. Named “Best of the University Presses, 100 Books” by the Association of University Presses, Sisters of the Undertow was shortlisted in the Kindle Book Awards for literary fiction. It was placed in the Texas Center for the Book, State Library Collection.

Johnnie was chosen as a selected speaker in the 2020 TEDx Fearless Women Series. She also supports young writers in public schools through the Letters About Literature program with the Texas Center for the Book and with the Write for Mississippi program.


Thank you for visiting today and I know that Johnnie would love to receive your feedback and questions about her work.. thanks Sally.