Sunday, March 27, 2011
Book Review: The Weird Sisters (Eleanor Brown)
The Weird Sisters is about three sisters in their late twenties/early thirties, daughters of a Shakespeare professor (hence their names: Rosalind, Bianca, Cordelia), who return home to their small Ohio college town upon learning their mother has breast cancer. Ostensibly, they don't get along. Each has followed a different path in life dictated by what they feel their role in the family has always been -- Rose, the oldest, is solid and dependable, a professor of mathematics at a nearby university, engaged to another professorial type who wants her to move away to England, where he's taken a position at Oxford. Bianca, or "Bean," went to New York City in search of money and men; it's ended badly. Cordy has been living what seems to be the life of one of those Phishkids, wandering around the country, crashing wherever, never landing anywhere for longer than a few weeks. She learns she's pregnant just as she gets the news of her mother's illness.
The tagline of the book is "See, we love each other. We just don't happen to like each other very much." And it's interesting -- as the book began, I didn't like any of the main characters, but I loved the writing, so I kept going, because I was so engaged. And by the end, I liked them all a great deal -- which is parallel to what actually happens in the story. And what does happen? Not much. Just a family living in a house and getting to know one another again, and each of the three sisters having some small victory over her own demons -- these three women bring a lot of their own problems on themselves (well, I suppose most of us do that, don't we?), and a lot of their supposed dislike for one another is created in their own heads.
I think the danger in a book like this is that, because the narrative is being spread thin across three main characters, motivations can get short shrift. And that definitely happens with at least one character, Rose -- I found myself frustrated with her need to stay in this small town and not go be with her fiance, because there didn't seem to be anything real behind her insistence in staying. She kept saying she had to "take care of" the parents, but it was quickly obvious that this was not the case, and thus it was unbelievable that someone capable of earning a living as a professor wouldn't know this and come to accept it much sooner. She does eventually go (that's not really a spoiler, as it's not really that kind of book), but I was frustrated by her the entire 200 pages it took her to get gone. I was rolling my eyes at her often and muttering under my breath, "Come on, just get over it already."
Luckily, the writing was good enough to keep me going. And as for the other two sisters -- I didn't really like Bean, but I totally got her and understood what she was going through. And I did like Cordelia, who would have been easy to be annoyed by with her hippy dippy flakiness and utter lack of any sense of responsibility. I loved the parents. And I also loved how the family all quotes Shakespeare to one another at every turn, in any situation -- all of them but the mother.
All in all, it's an enjoyable read, and really well-written. I definitely recommend it.