Debbie's Reviews > The Weird Sisters

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
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's review
May 12, 2011

really liked it
Read in May, 2011

Brown’s debut novel is the story of the Andreas sisters, Rose, Bean and Cordy—named for the Shakespearean characters Rosalind, Bianca and Cordelia–who have returned home to small town Barnwell, Ohio, ostensibly to help care for their mother who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Each of the three, however, have come to lick wounds from injuries that, although we the reader know immediately, each is unwillingly to divulge to her family. They take on their old roles within the family, while trying to reconcile these with the women they have become.

Brown writes convincingly about the complexities of sibling relationships. She captures the dichotomy between old lives and new. She successfully traces the growth of each sister.

And she does it all in the third person plural voice that seems to call for constant attention on the part of the reader. It’s as if all three sisters are speaking in unison and yet, when the actions of one are described, she is portrayed in the third person also. The effect is that the speakers are ever moving—one minute it’s all three telling the story, the next it appears to be Rose and Cordy or Bean and Cordy. This seemed to keep the story’s voice lively. For example:
"So this was it, then. She’d been replaced. Bean and Cordy were going to the ones to put everything right…Apparently we could have done it without her all along.
So she was useless, then. We only wanted her if we were feeling too lazy to do what we were apparently perfectly capable of.
If only we’d been there to talk to her, soothe those fears, to tell her that no, we could not have done it without her all those years, it was only now, only after all we had been through, only because we had seen her managing things that we could step in and take up the reins, do our part."

I also enjoyed Bean’s struggle to return to small town living after being in NYC for several years.
"The whole drive home she had pictured her stay in Barnwell, imagining an ascetic, nun-like existence that would serve as spiritual penance for what she had done. She would wear drab colors and eat dry bread and her skin would take on the cinematic pallor of a glamorous invalid as she modestly turned down creature comforts. But the reality of that hair shirt was beginning to chafe already. It was Saturday night, for crying out loud. At this hour in the city, she would only just be getting ready to go out, and here she was seriously considering going to bed."

Although all of the sisters have life-changing circumstances to deal with, the tone of the book is upbeat, perhaps a bit too much so to be taken as serious literature. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed The Weird Sisters and was sorry to see the book end.

Four stars out of five.
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