Monday, January 17, 2011

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

The Andreas family of Barnwell, Ohio is a bookish one. Father is a professor of English at Barnwell College, renowned as a Shakespeare scholar and more than a little obsessed with the works of the immortal bard. Each of his daughters is named for a Shakespearean heroine: Rosalind, called Rose, Bianca, known as Bean, and Cordelia, who is, of course, Cordy. His conversation is peppered with quotes from the plays--a habit all three of the daughters have picked up (Strike up the drum; cry 'Courage!' and away, Cordy whispers to herself as she's shoplifting a pregnancy test at the beginning of the book; and, If it were done, when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly quotes Bean under her breath, as she's being led into her boss's office to be fired a few pages later).

Of the three Andreas sisters only the eldest, Rose, still lives in their hometown. Cordy, the youngest, dropped out of college nearly a decade earlier, and has been living a nomadic life--hitchhiking, music festivals, sleeping on couches--ever since. And Bean, the middle sister, fled as soon as she graduated, heading for New York and a life as far from the quiet life of a college town as possible. Each sister, suffering an upheaval in her life, heads home, where they will spend the hot, humid summer helping care for their mother, who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer (as is his way, their father conveyed this news by sending a page copied from his decades old, heavily annotated Riverside Shakespeare, on which he highlighted the line, Come, let us go; and pray to all the gods/For our beloved mother in her pains.)


The three Andreas sisters will also spend the summer figuring out who they are and how to live their lives. They'll work on that most difficult of tasks, learning to know one's parents as people, not just as parents. And they'll find love, and acceptance, and a measure of grace. In fact, although The Weird Sisters does not end with a wedding, still, the ending has the feel of the ending of a Shakespearean comedy.


The first person plural narrative voice was charming. The "we" of the narrator acts almost as a fourth sister, who elucidates the trio's collective feelings and points of view, as well as the individual ones of each of the sisters. This odd device, the abundance of italicized but usually unattributed quotes from the bard, and the relentless quirkiness of the Andreas family could have been overwhelming or off-putting, but it wasn't. Their love of books and stories and each other was beautifully painted, and enough to keep this reader charmed to the end.

1 comment:

Kristin said...

This looks really good! Great review! Hope you're having a great weekend!

Kristin
MyBookishWays