The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
2011 Amy Einhorn Books
Finished on 3/14/11
Rating: 4.5 (Terrific!)
Product Description (from the author’s website):
A major new talent tackles the complicated terrain of sisters. A winsome novel that explores sibling rivalry, the power of books, and the places we decide to call home.
“See, we love each other. We just don’t like each other very much.”
The Andreas sisters were raised on books – their family motto might as well be, ‘There’s no problem a library card can’t solve.’ Their father, a renowned, eccentric professor of Shakespearean studies, named them after three of the Bard’s most famous characters: Rose (Rosalind – As You Like It), Bean (Bianca – The Taming of the Shrew), and Cordy (Cordelia – King Lear), but they have inherited those characters’ failures along with their strengths.
Now the sisters have returned home to the small college town where they grew up – partly because their mother is ill, but mostly because their lives are falling apart and they don’t know where to go next. Rose, a staid mathematics professor, has the chance to break away from her quiet life and join her devoted fiancé in England, if she could only summon up the courage to do more than she’s thought she could. Bean left home as soon as she could, running to the glamour of New York City, only to come back ashamed of the person she has become. And Cordy, who has been wandering the country for years, has been brought back to earth with a resounding thud, realizing it’s finally time for her to grow up.
The sisters never thought they would find the answers to their problems in each other, but over the course of one long summer, they find that everything they’ve been running from – each other, their histories, and their small hometown – might offer more than they ever expected.
When The Weird Sisters first arrived on the shelves at work, I admired the lovely cover art, but only briefly glanced at the synopsis. Within a few days, I had read a couple of enticing reviews, but then I saw the following Facebook post (on a favorite author’s wall). Marisa de los Santos wrote:
[She] …is head over heels for The Weird Sisters by the marvelous Eleanor Brown!
Read it! Read it!
So fresh, so smart, so dead-on when it comes to family relationships. Every sentence--ever SINGLE sentence--is perfect. (Can you tell I wish I'd written it?).
So what is a good fan to do, but read it! And what an utterly delightful read it turned out to be. Once I got used to the narrative voice (first person plural), I was quickly drawn into the sisters’ story and the pages flew. Growing up in a household with three brothers, I couldn’t relate to the rivalry among the sisters, having never experienced the petty arguments, competition or jealousies that are so often shared between sisters. And yet, I could still understand and appreciate the shift in the family dynamics as the girls returned home, redefining themselves as adults amidst their shared family history.
This smart and witty debut novel is both engaging and insightful, and I have a feeling it’s going to be one of those books I’ll find myself thrusting into the hands of customers and friends alike (much like The Help, Still Alice, Room, Belong to Me, Stiltsville, and The School of Essential Ingredients).
Cordy and Bean pulled out their books and opened them, disappearing behind the pages. Rose sat for a long time, staring at nothing in particular, and then opened her book as well. That was it, apparently. We weren’t going to talk about it, we weren’t going to share any feelings or discuss any arrangements, not going to bond in any kind of movie montage moment where emotional music swelled as we hugged and wept for our mother’s loss and our own fear. Instead, we were going to wrap ourselves in cloaks woven from self-pity and victimhood, refusing to admit that we might be able to help each other if we’d only open up. Instead, we’d do what we always did, the only thing we’d ever been dependably stellar at: we’d read.
There is much made in the psychological literature of the effects of divorce on children, particularly as it comes to their own marriages, lo those many years later. We have always wondered why there is not more research done on the children of happy marriages. Our parents’ love is not some grand passion, there are no swoons of lust, no ball gowns and tuxedos, but here is the truth: they have not spent a night apart since the day they married.
How can we ever hope to find a love to live up to that?
“The city, that burning desire you had for freedom, what has it brought you? Sound and fury, signifying nothing. You may think I’m a foolish old man, gone to seed already, but we chose this life, your mother and I, and we have never regretted it. I earn what I eat, get what I wear, owe no man hate, envy no man’s happiness, glad of other men’s good. We won’t hold you back, Bianca, but we want you to find happiness.”
The knowledge hit her then, hard: someday he would be gone. His inscrutable quoting, his missives by mail, his old-fashioned fashions, the protective web he and our mother had spun around themselves, would evaporate, and leaving us only with the memories of his thoughtful smile, his distance, and a lifetime of work that would have mattered most to a man dead four centuries ago. She let the door shut, placed her head against the cool glass, and prayed.
On fatherly advice:
“We all have stories we tell ourselves. We tell ourselves we are too fat, or too ugly, or too old, or too foolish. We tell ourselves these stories because they allow us to excuse our actions, and they allow us to pass off the responsibility for things we have done—maybe to something within our control, but anything other than the decisions we have made.
He leaned forward, and Bean, who had turned away, felt pulled back into his eyes. “Your story, Bean, is the story of your sisters. And it is past time, I think, for you to stop telling that particular story, and tell the story of yourself. Stop defining yourself in terms of them. You don’t just have to exist in the empty spaces they leave. There are times in our lives when we have to realize our past is precisely what it is, and we cannot change it. But we can change the story we tell ourselves about it, and by doing that, we can change the future.”
So, will The Weird Sisters be the darling of the 2011? It certainly has promise!
Read what other bloggers have to say:
Do not be surprised if you see The Weird Sisters next year on my top ten of 2011 – it really is that good. Highly recommended. (Wendy, from Caribousmom)
Even though it's only January, it's hard for me to imagine that The Weird Sisters will be bumped off my top reads list for 2011. (Beth from Beth Fish Reads)
Be sure to click on the links to read their full reviews of Eleanor Brown’s lovely novel.
Go here to visit the author’s website & blog.