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The Weird Sisters

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The three Andreas sisters grew up in the cloistered household dominated by their Shakespearean professor father, a prominent, eccentric academic whose reverence for the Bard left its imprint on his daughters' names: Rosalind (As You Like It), Bianca (The Taming of the Shrew), and Cordelia (King Lear). The siblings eventually left home and escaped their ponderous monikers with nicknames, but their mother's medical maladies brings them back. Before long, their unwelcome reunion reveals that they all have problems: Rose is force-feeding a troubled relationship; Bean is entangled in a big city case of embezzlement; and unmarried Cordy is pregnant. Eleanor Brown's first fiction has justly won praise as "thought-provoking... poignant... sparkling and devourable."

400 pages, Paperback

First published January 20, 2011

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About the author

Eleanor Brown

28 books842 followers
Eleanor Brown is the New York Times and international bestselling author of the novels The Weird Sisters, The Light of Paris, and Any Other Family.

She is also the editor of A Paris All Your Own. She lives in Colorado with her family.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 6,613 reviews
Profile Image for Stephanie *Eff your feelings*.
239 reviews1,233 followers
June 24, 2012
Is every book set in Ohio?

This is the second book in a row that I have read set here in Ohio. The first one,Knockemstiff, was most excellent; Weird Sisters I’m sorry to say was shit. This book was just, beyond words, sucky. Gack! I even finished it because I wasn’t going to let it beat me.

Here’s the clever premise. Three sisters by the names of Bianca, Cordelia , and Rose (short for Roselyn? I just don’t care) are born to a family who can’t stop reading…..ever. They are born to parents whose names I don’t recall (and I don’t care), in a fictional town of Barnwell, Ohio, home to Barnwell college (university? I don’t care). Why the author didn’t pick an actual small town university (Ohio has 194 colleges and universities) like Oberlin? I do not know. That would have been the perfect setting for this book, and it would have made it a little more interesting………anyway.

The dad is a professor at Barmwell, and reads nothing but Shakespeare, and quotes it in every possible moment like Rainman. The guy answers all questions with a Shakespearean quote……..EVERY FRICKEN ONE! It gets really annoying. Oh, did I mention that the three sisters are named after Shakespearean characters? Duh, of course they are. They mention how guys would make fun of them on dates when they figured out the connection. Oh please! I’m going to say at least 65% of Ohioans have never read Shakespeare at any length, and I think that generous. Of those who have 98% do not have Shakespeare at the forefront of their brains enough to say “hey, are you named after the Cordelia in that Shakespeare play?” nuh-uh. I would be more apt to ask “hey, are you named after Cordelia from Buffy?”

All three sisters are unlikeable. Each character is so flat and not fleshed out that I have no clue what they looked like, and I don’t care. All through the book the author kept reminding us that these people read a lot of books and constantly quote Shakespeare (I GET IT!) , they are elitists.

Stupid, stupid, stupid……..I want those six hours back please.
Profile Image for Janet.
307 reviews22 followers
Shelved as 'gave-up'
May 26, 2012
I read about 50 pages of this. I found the unknown narrator irritating-at first I thought I might have missed who was doing the narrating and kept going back to see, but then I realized the book was supposed to be like that, that there was no one narrator; I may be old-fashioned but I like knowing who's doing the narrating in a book. I suppose this can be considered an antinovel since I haven't seen this kind of narration before. I just can't stand it. And, while Shakespeare was a brilliant writer, I hate novels that incorporate his characters-even their names-and worse, quotations from his works. And, it seemed to move at a snail's pace and not much was happening. I kept looking at another book on the table beside my chair and finally the other book won.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
593 reviews33 followers
June 29, 2022
Absolutely pitch perfect. (I would give this ten out of five stars if I could.)

This is the first book I have read that uses a first-person-plural narrative style, and it was so completely appropriate; you get the sense that this book came together with these three sisters sitting around a Pensieve after the events of this book have transpired, looking at them playing out again, and dictating the story to the author, who has set up shop with a typewriter in the adjacent corner of the room.

Speaking of the author. What a way with words! It is not hyperbole to say that there is a jewel of prose on nearly every single page of this book. One of the reviews on the back cover talks about it in terms of alchemy-- the magic and science of wordplay, combining everyday and ordinary words into phrases and lines of pure gold. (And the way the author managed to weave in so much of Shakespeare's original words so naturally and seamlessly is certainly another credit to her mastery and skill.)

As for the story itself? If this novel were a dissertation, its thesis statement would be found in the first paragraph of page 211. Ultimately, it is a story about identity. Who we are, whether we can change, and how the road of life will always lead us back to the truth of those issues, but so many times, we're too afraid of what we might encounter, and so we take multiple (and completely unnecessary) detours along the way. Whether you have only brothers or are a single child, this novel will resonate with you.
Profile Image for L.
377 reviews
May 24, 2012
I can't even finish this piece of crap book; it's so juvenile it's insulting. Clearly Eleanor Brown just took some extended writing class and thinks she's an author because she's using every cliche and plot technique to prolong a story that's just not interesting. Here are the reasons I know she's an amateur writer: 1) She includes insignificant details that are supposed to make her characters round but really have nothing at all to do with the characters - why is it important to talk about someone looking at a goddamn dishtowel? 2) One of the characters is pregnant and OMG! what a GREAT way to move plot along ... the story grows along with the baby and the end of story will culminate with a baby being born. (That's sarcasm). So, so, so unoriginal and not very taxing on an author to come up with a different way to propel plot. 3) How realistic is it that a father, as obsessed as he is with Shakespeare, talks almost entirely in Bardlanguage? 4) Not a single book is named although the characters are constantly reading. Would it hurt to have them read a Bronte?

The sisters are stupid, not weird. Each is more mentally challenged than the next, making decisions that aren't well-thought out and have landed them in this shitty situation in the first place. No wonder they hate each other. I don't even know them as characters (thanks to amateur writing) and I don't like them.

Ugh. Good riddance and go back to the hell from whence you came! (i.e. return to whatever MFA program spewed this book out)
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,481 reviews7,777 followers
February 5, 2016
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

“Sisters keep secrets. Because sisters’ secrets are swords.”

This space could probably remain blank and a whole ton of you would go buy The Weird Sisters for this little blurb alone . . .

There is no problem that a library card can't solve.

I should probably leave it at that because I have no clue what to say about this book. Here, allow me to distract you with some giffery . . . .

Palm Springs commercial photography

Ahhhh, that’s better. All glory and honor to the HypnoGoldblum. You will now give me all of your likes and I don’t have to tell you anything about the book at all . . . .

Geesh! Calm down future-ex-Mr.KellyandtheBookBoar. So touchy that one is sometimes.

My friend Trudi sums The Weird Sisters up best when she says this book isn’t really about anything. It kind of isn’t. The story is about three sisters who gather back at their childhood home to help care for their mother who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s about the secrets each carry and the revealing of those secrets gradually during their stay. It’s sort of a “second coming of age” – 30-something style. It’s about family . . . .

“See, we love each other. We just don't happen to like each other very much.”

This isn’t a book I would have ever picked up on my own. Buuuuuuut in my quest for all things free from the library this was a suggested selection for the Shakespeare-inspired challenge and I immediately put my name on the wait list. I’m glad I did. It might have been a little “chick litty” or “book clubby” (or whatever other kind of moniker I can give it that will end up ticking someone off even though I don’t mean to) compared to what I normally read, but the writing was so pretty that I never wanted to put it down . . . .

Right? Nailed it!

Palm Springs commercial photography

This selection was chosen as part of the library’s Winter Reading Challenge. Only TWO more books and the limited edition beer mug will be MIIIIIIIIIIINE!

Palm Springs commercial photography

913 reviews409 followers
May 25, 2011
We were three sisters who wanted to write a story that was different from any other. Or even if it was a cliché, at least we could make it seem different by using the first-person plural narrative. And by adding a gimmick – a father who’s a professor of Shakespeare, so that Shakespearean quotations could be thrown in at convenient times to make the reader feel literary and make us seem different.

Rose, the oldest, insisted that she be the overfunctioning sister. “All sister duos in these books must consist of an overfunctioner and an underfunctioner,” she preached. “But we’re not a duo,” whined Cordy, the youngest. “How can we be an overfunctioner and underfunctioner if there are three of us?” Rose, of course, had it all figured out. “The underfunctioning sister is usually both a slut and a flake,” she said to Cordy and to the middle sister, Bianca. “So you’ll both be underfunctioners, just one of you will be the slut and one of you will be the flake.” “Fine by me,” Bianca drawled, flipping her hair, “Only I get to be the slut.” “Well, I’m the youngest,” said Cordy, “So I guess it would fit for me to be the flake.”

“Now,” said Rose, ticking another item off her agenda. “Here’s the premise – are you ready? Life-threatening illness of a family member brings the estranged siblings together. Dysfunction ensues, to be gradually replaced by bonding and the realization that the family is actually more loving than the sisters previously thought. Great idea, isn’t it? And original too.” Bianca and Cordy nodded; after all, as the underfunctioners they didn’t have much of an opinion although they did occasionally talk back or surprise everyone with some uncharacteristically wise insight.

"Okay," said Rose. "Now each of us needs a dilemma, problem, growth opportunity -- you know the shpiel." "How about Bianca gets pregnant?" asked Cordy. "Being a slut and all." "Don't be ridiculous, Cordy," Bianca snorted. "That will ruin my slut image, not to mention my figure. Why don't you get pregnant instead?" "Do I have to?" moaned Cordy. "It's perfect," said Rose. "A perfectly flaky thing to do, and a chance for you to overcome your childishness. But what about you, Bianca?" "An affair with a married man, I guess," said Bianca. "And you, Rose?" "Well, as the resident overfunctioner, I could realize that I need to stop being so controlling, that the family won't fall apart without me, that I can leave home, follow my dreams..."

“Don’t I at least get a love interest?” begged Cordy. "It won't be a women's book without romance." “Don’t worry,” Rose reassured her. “Somewhere in the first pages we’ll mention that a guy we grew up with has come back to our small town. Like Chekhov’s gun, by the end of the book that guy will be dating one of us – you, Cordy, I guess, since Bianca will have her married man.” “That could be another theme,” Cordy said. “Leaving the big city for the small town and finding that experience to be redemptive. That’s pretty unusual.”

“This is getting good,” said Rose, and we all agreed. Rose was starting to have that look of satisfaction we knew so well. “Last thing,” she added, “We should all love to read. I mean, really love to read. And that fact should be mentioned wherever possible.” We wholeheartedly agreed. After all, our readers would be people who loved to read. And with inspired books like this one, what’s not to love?
Profile Image for Jann Barber.
396 reviews11 followers
January 5, 2012
I was struck by a few sentences spoken by the character of Father Aidan on page 305 of my copy of this book: "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."

I liked the book and the interactions between the sisters/the sisters and their parents/the sisters and non-family members. It did seem as if some of the character traits or scenes were a bit exaggerated. The author used commonly believed ideas about the effects of birth order on personalities to develop her characters. At times, some of the interactions seemed two-dimensional to me.

On the other hand, I do believe that we often revert back to habits and interactions of childhood when returning to the nest of the family, no matter what our age. Memories of smells from childhood can have great impact when experienced as an adult. These scenes seemed truer to me than some of the others.

The need to be needed and the fact that our parents won't live forever also play parts in the unfolding of this story.

I enjoyed reading it, but I don't know that this is a book I will keep.
194 reviews1 follower
March 31, 2011
This book sucked. It's about 3 sisters who all end up moving back home to "help" their mother while she's battling breast cancer. But they all moved back home at the same time because (as they will readily admit) they are failures. How nice for their mother. The oldest, Rose, is an obnoxious know-it-all who's convinced no one can do anything without her. Everyone else is a total screw up and she (and she alone) will save the day. She's ruining her life in the process but she likes being a martyr and pointing out her sisters' weaknesses. The middle child, Bianca, is a vain slut who steals money from her employers to keep up her glamour girl/party girl/slutty girl image in New York. Until she gets caught, fired and threatened with arrest for larceny. The youngest, Cordelia, is a bohemian slut who has spent all of her twenties screwing and hitchhiking her way across the country. For what reason? She doesn't have one. She only comes home when she is homeless, broke, starving and pregnant. What exactly did the terrible, awful parents of these 3 women do to screw them up? Wait for it...the father was a Shakespearean professor who liked to quote Shakespeare and named his daughters after Shakespearean characters and the mother frequently burned dinner because she was as absent minded as the father and liked to read books instead of cook. Seriously? These are obnoxious people who all deserve each other and I deserve to get back the hours it took me to read this crappy book.
Profile Image for Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews.
1,081 reviews1,412 followers
June 28, 2016
Three sisters, three different outlooks on life, three different opinions about working, three different attitudes concerning just about everything, but they all had the same reason for coming home.....their mother needed help because of her breast cancer.

Rose was the practical, organized sister, Bean was the attorney turned thief, and Cordy was still the spoiled child she always was. They all had some secret or concern as they returned to their childhood home.

Their childhood home was one of love, of books, and Shakespearean quotes....the entire family quoted Shakespeare as they spoke and thought nothing of doing so. None of the girls was ever without a book in her hands.

Just as in childhood, the adult lives of each sister went opposite ways in terms of interest and responsibility, but their love and concern for each other was evident. The emotions of the characters and the descriptions of situations especially during childhood flashbacks was perfectly depicted allowing the reader to experience the hominess of small town connections and the nostalgia of coming back to your roots.

You will enjoy each sister for her strengths and shortcomings, and you will admire their parents for their love of each other and for the love of reading they instilled in their daughters.

I really enjoyed this book...if you have sisters, you will cherish it and you will most likely be comparing these characters to see which sister you are!! If you don't have sisters, the bond between all the characters will "warm your heart" and have you thinking about your own family and sibling relationships.

P. S. The Three Witches or Weird Sisters are characters in William Shakespeare's play Macbeth (c. 1603–1607)...information taken from Wikipedia.
Profile Image for Margot.
Author 9 books24 followers
April 3, 2013
When their mother is diagnosed with cancer, Bianca and Cordelia find themselves returning home to join their third sister, Rose, who still lives in their hometown. Bean and Cordy aren't returning to support their mother as much as they are impelled by their own messy life situations: Bianca because she has been fired for stealing from her job, and Cordelia because after years of living irresponsibly on the road, she has discovered that she is pregnant. Stalwart Rose has finally glimpsed a chance at happiness, with a beloved fiance and plans to marry in December.

Their father is a renowned professor of Shakespeare, which accounts for the oddness of their names and their propensity to communicate emotion to each other in flippant or opaque quotes from The Bard's master works. It is a family of readers, described as people who will set a book down only to have someone else pick it up and wander off with it.

As the three sisters are thrown together in their childhood home, the pressures of living together as adults and dealing with their mother's illness and the bizarreness of returning to the quiet town they grew up in causes friction between them. Somehow, they just can't connect with each other, and they revert to bickering like teenagers.

The book is told in an unusual first person plural limited voice, which means passages are written "We did XYZ" where "we" is the sisters. "We" seems to know the inner workings of all the sisters' brains and hearts, but the sisters themselves are kept in the dark. This produces an intriguing tension between what the reader knows and what the sisters do, while granting an intimacy with all three.

The characters are well-drawn, and while none is wholly lovable, each is totally understandable. The complex, nuanced characterizations are one of the strongest points of the book. The reader gets to sit on the sisters' shoulders as they bump up against each other and spin away again, and it feels like being in the midst of a real sibling conflict, where you're not quite sure WHY you're snapping at your sister, except that 25+ years of history make it too hard to show them the same kindness you'd show a friend.

The plot wraps up a little neatly in the end, but I'm willing to forgive that, chalking it up to the Shakespearean influence. If you're a reader or a Shakespeare lover, I highly recommend this novel.
Profile Image for Ronni.
3 reviews1 follower
February 8, 2012
This book started out great! I loved the quoting Shakespeare and the story itself told by all three sisters. After a while I found the writing annoying. It wasn't always easy to understand what Brown was trying to say. I persevered and by the middle I just wanted to know what happened. I was relieved when I finally finished! I felt that this was basically a very juvenile story and I most certainly would not recommend it to anyone. By the way, this is the first time I am taking the time to review a book. I think I am venting because this book had great potential but ultimately just wasted my time!
Profile Image for Rosemary.
161 reviews10 followers
January 4, 2012
This book is nothing like the kind of thing I choose to read. It is the kind of thing found in the "New fiction" section at Barnes and Noble, or "Literature" in other places. I'm a genre fiction sort of girl, and so this isn't something I'd have ever read under normal conditions.

But, when the Vice President comes flying down the hall to give you her copy because she's sure you'd enjoy it...well.... And to be fair, we did talk about it when we were doing the Walk for the Cure in October, and our tastes do overlap considerably.

So, I figured--what the heck! I'll give it a go.

It was lovely.

The narrative voice is...witty, and acerbic, and warm (as appropriate), and just a little odd. Odd in a good way (a very original use of first person). It has three interesting sisters as the protagonists--and this is the chick-lit part that normally I don't go near--who are growing, and learning, and becoming better than they start out the book as.

There were some uncomfortable moments, like seeing some of what I like least about myself on the page; some events are near triggers given what is going on in the lives of some friends; and making me feel homesick for the family I've lost, for dreams I abandoned. But, for all that, I'm glad I read it.

But, of course, I've gone on too long, a bit incoherently. If I were the father in this novel, I'd simply have said,

"If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream..."
Profile Image for Judith Hannan.
Author 3 books24 followers
November 20, 2012
When I was in my 20s, for every three "literary" works I read, I would read one mystery and one romance novel, the latter for pure escapsism. When I began The Weird Sisters, I was hopeful that it could an ideal combination of fine writing but a fun/easier read. Indeed, Eleanor Brown has beautiful phrases and expressions sprinkled generously througout this book. Unfortunately, it just isn't enough to make The Weird Sisters work for me. In talking about a character's pre-determined fate vs what can be changed, the book one dimensional--each personality doing precisely what the puppeteer dictates. This made for frustrating reading because I would have loved a complex story about sisters. There are shades of Alice Hoffman in this book, without the magic. But here again, Brown overdoes the point that this is an unusual and quirky family so what should be fascinating about them becomes banal. While I wouldn't recommend this book, I am eager to see what Brown writes next because if she marries her excellent use of language with more compelling characters and action, I would be an eager reader.

I have one more observation. In reading the reviews of others--both of this book and others--I was diappointed to find abusive language and a complete lack of respect for the author and the potential reader. I think back to my review of Amy Sohn's Motherland, which I debated over because I thought it was harsh. Perhaps it was because I thought Sohn's book was mean. But I I couldn't imagine cursing the author or just flinging negative criticism without backing it up. If we choose to review a book we should do so responsibly.
Profile Image for Emily.
687 reviews632 followers
March 31, 2011
I would have abandoned this book if I hadn't been traveling this week. Much like The Cookbook Collector, it's the story of upper-middle-class sisters testing the boundaries and distinctions between one another, only here there is an additional veneer of literary vanity in the form of copious quotations from Shakespeare. In this book, you see, the sisters' father is a professor specializing in the Bard, so they all quote him as the occasion rises. It's supposed to be clever, but I came away with the impression that the author wrote this with a concordance to Shakespeare by her side and periodically would look up a word like "retirement" and throw in a quote without necessarily understanding it.

The author also attempts the type of first-person plural narration used to such good effect in Then We Came to the End. The three sisters are referred to as "we" (and "our parents," etc.) but each individually is referred to in the third person, so that you can't tell who is really telling the story--or perhaps they all are. This isn't nearly as interesting as the same device in Joshua Ferris's book, because he makes the reader wonder who the narrator of his story is: is it one of the characters we're reading about; a separate, shy character who is present only on the sidelines; or something else? And as that story goes on, Ferris cleverly whittles down who the narrator(s) might be. Here, there is no such resolution--the author just decided to use the second person when referring to the characters collectively. It seems like nothing more than an affectation.

These are the two embellishments that are meant to distinguish this otherwise ordinary story of adult children coming home. (The reason for their homecoming is not Christmas, but their mother's breast cancer treatments, which earns the novel another check on the book club list.)

And if I weren't already annoyed by this book's pretensions, the author decided to throw in a librarian character. One of the sisters, who had hitherto distinguished herself as an alcoholic flirt, an adulterer, and an inept embezzler from the small law firm where she worked as a secretary, loved the library as a child, and the librarian suggests that she take over while the older woman recovers from hip replacement surgery. The sister protests that she's unqualified, and the librarian says, "It's hardly rocket science, dear." Later we see this budding bibliophile apparently automate the library in the space of an afternoon. I imagine that the author meant this as a loving tribute to the librarians who taught her to love reading, but really, with fans like these, who needs enemies?
Profile Image for Novelwit2000.
4 reviews
June 4, 2011
Up front, I have to say that when I discovered this novel, I went into it with the truest of intentions. I mean, I come from a family with three sisters--I'm the youngest and I know a little bit about Shakespeare--happen to love Othello and The Taming of the Shrew.

But this story just seemed to go into places that I couldn't get into and didn't much care for.

Only real quick, this wouldn't be a 'classic' Novelwit2000 review, if I didn't bring up the thing with the names.

I thought it was a novel idea that the three sisters were named after characters from Shakespeare--and maybe we should've left it at that. Only the author wanted to give them these nick names that were essentially their names throughout the story.

Now I'll say I get 'Rose' for Rosalind. And 'Cordy' for Cordelia. But how on EARTH do you get 'Bean' for Bianca? To have to read the name Bean practically every page of this book had to be one of the most grating things ever. Only because the name Bean just seemed so...weird. It was a weird choice certainly given how glamorous this character Bean was supposed to be. I mean, the name to me, just NEVER seemed to sit well with her. Might I have suggested a name like 'BeBe' or maybe even the exotic 'Bia'? To me, those names would've been WAY more appropriate. Because to me the name 'Bean' just sounded...well...again I'll say it, WEIRD! (I don't think I can say it enough how so very important it is for an author to get the names right for their characters.) Because to do otherwise, can be a real train wreck. I mean, could you imagine 'Romeo & Diane'? Or if Dorothy's name in the Wizard of Oz was 'Sharon'? This (getting the name right) shouldn't be that hard of a thing to do--but seeing how so many authors out there seem to get this all so very wrong, I guess maybe this IS a hard thing to do after all. Oh well? Moving on...

Early on in this book, it's like there was something unsavory about this story. Only because it's like you have a scenario wherein the mom gets sick and it's looking like she's going to need help in her recovery--so here come the troops of her daughters coming back home to give her this help.

And this in and of itself, would've been such a noble thing. I mean, I could tell the author that you had a reason for the daughters to come come back home--their mother's illness. That's ALL you needed. Only as the story unfolds, there are all these OTHER reasons why they REALLY came home. And the reasons are pretty MAJOR too! (I won't give anything away.) But what was put on Bean, was just too much. I mean, for what she did, I would think a lawyer would've needed to be involved. That and maybe some jail time. I mean, when you read what happens here, it's kinda REAL hard to accept that with what she's done, she's just allowed to walk. But oh well, that's how the author wanted to fashion this story. Go figure?

Also, the thing with Rose being around to take care of things. It's like maybe she's not all that noble after all.

And the thing with Cordy finally growing up? Wow, does she pick a real doozy to prove this point!

Also, it's something in the rhythm of the writing here. The story would kinda jump around without a lot of preparation and you'd be here or there. And I'd think, wow I guess we're here now. OK, let's see what we got now. I really felt this when Rose went to England. I was thinking (given the situation with her mother) that there would've been a scene where Rose would've lined up her sisters and given them a list of these complete instructions on what to do and everything. Only this didn't happen. (And I could say that because of this LACK of direction, there were times when I felt lost--like there were these gaping holes in the narrative.) We get this again with Cordy too when she abruptly decides to take off.

Also, a lot of times I felt like the father in the story was disturbingly eccentric with all of his Shakespearean quoting and stuff. I mean, all I could think was 'just enough' of this would've been all right. But when you do this so much, then it starts being too over the top, pointless and really very distracting. I mean, I would've been more impressed with more REAL dialogue from him.

And then it was something about the pacing of the story. It was like the story was supposed to be going in a certain direction, then it would turn the corner and do this segue into things of the past. This was done quite often and I would've appreciated going forward with the story already.

So you know, I'll just go forward with my review already!

Simply put, I did not care for this novel at all. The characters were not people that I enjoyed being around or getting to know. And they did NOT seem or feel like sisters to me.

All in all, I cannot, nor would I EVER recommend this book to anyone.
Profile Image for Trudi.
615 reviews1,455 followers
August 12, 2011
My TBR pile has grown ridiculously huge of late (my house is hoarding half my public library's precious cargo). Despite this ever-increasing mountain of unread promises, my reading pace has proportionately slowed. At a time when I should be blazing through the pages of every book I pick up, I find myself smelling the proverbial roses. The faster I burn through a book, the more quickly I am to forget it anyway, even the real gems. Plus, life just gets in the way sometimes and it's been doing a darn good job of pulling me away from the last few books I've picked up.

This one I was more than happy to spend a whole week with, sneaking short sweet moments with it every chance I got. Nothing really happens in this book, but it hums along at a wonderful pace. How could I not be pulled into a story about sisters and the dynamics of small town life, that celebrates books, the Bard, and new beginnings. As Rose, Bean and Cordy show us, no matter how much a life seems utterly derailed, it's never too late to start over. Quite often only through complete failure can we find our way to where we're supposed to be.

If that all sounds a little too touchy-feely, hippy-do for you, I won't lie -- it is touchy-feely, hippy-do -- but it's a touchy-feely, hippy-do that's wrapped in staggeringly gorgeous prose and turns of phrase. I nearly drove my boyfriend crazy following him around the house to recite certain passages. I just couldn't resist, Brown uses language that's meant to be read aloud.

The novel could have easily descended into an Oprah/Hallmark co-production of the week but it is saved from that nausea-inducing fate by carefully crafted and lovable sisters and language that flows like sparkling water out of a mountain spring (too much? yeah, I should have quit while I was ahead).

I'm a zombie-loving girl who needed a break from bleak dystopias and nerve-jangling apocalypses. This book totally fit the bill.

Profile Image for Layla Strohl.
80 reviews
September 15, 2012
Poor Eleanor Brown. I think from reading other reviews she unfairly gets a bad rap. Yes it's true this book is is not high class literature but it is an interesting take on birth order roles and interactions of siblings. It's also true that the characters often are self absorbed malcontents (as one good read reviewer put it) but their struggles, while they may seem superficial to some, feel genuine and their pain real.

Also I think the idea of three sibling coming home to care for their ailing mother would in fact cause all the tension, conflict, jealousies to boil over. Haven't we all at some point been home for the holidays and 48 hours in find ourselves back to being a moody teenager infighting with siblings over whose the favorite, who takes the most responsibly, and who is always able to get away with murder. I know it happens in my house. So to me the Weird sisters represent a true family that may not be completely prepared, mentally or physically, to deal with their sick mother, let alone deal with each other, but they try and fail and try again, and thats how many families work, and there is nothing weird about that.
Profile Image for Ryn.
292 reviews14 followers
January 17, 2012
Oh book how I hated thee. Let me count the ways. One detail that bothered me greatly was that these girls were constantly reading, but never does the author tell us what they are reading. I like books about books about books. A book about books this was not.

Then there was the disappointing fact that these sisters were in no way weird. They WERE banal, cliche, boring, trite, annoying, and unrealistic. First we have Rose the stuffy, plain, type-A eldest sister who just needs to learn to give up her dreams of having a career so that she can move on to much more important things like romance. As soon as she can let go of those unladylike old-maidish dreams of hers...WOW she can become a totally different person. Ta Da! She can be a happy housewife with new interests like dropping in to a tai-chi class and living with her perfect husband far far away from that annoying family of hers. Well... I would want to get away too. The other main characters Cordy and Bean are equally hate-able. Bean the stealing slut and Cordy the spacy hippy ho-bag. Luckily in Barnwell where this book takes place, men are just idealistic receptacles where the crazy thirty-something women of the world can dump their crappy personalities and find fulfillment and meaning. Yuck, barf, gag-me-with-a-spoon.

I give this book one star because some of the references to the Immortal Bard were interesting and helpful in my goodreads trivia. Also it gets points for the use of first person plural narrative style. That was a bit fresh.
Profile Image for AennA.
49 reviews34 followers
April 26, 2012
A feel-good book, something that will burn your heart with affection to the characters, and at the end will warm your heart with its story.

The story is simple - three sisters who were reunited in their home town to aid their ailing mother. There's nothing fancy about the plot, except when you started to read it. What I love about the book is how expected each moment can be, yet there is a dash of twist in each way the story was told. Each sisters has their own story, which they tried to ran away from, and they found refuge in their old home, where their childhood and fondest, simplest memories started and remains.

Being the youngest of a sisterhood of 5, I find the story close to my heart. I understand how hard it can be for the characters to have siblings and argue for attention. Fortunately for me, I'm the youngest, so it's not that hard to seek attention and affection.

I wouldn't talk much about the characters, since the reader has to discover each characters weakness and strength to appreciate their story. I love how the characters seems to be real, they aren't perfect, they're just like any ordinary human beings we get to meet everyday. I love the simple but real dramas, the angst, and the pain of each character.

If you love your family, or even if you don't, which I also doubt, you'll find this book a heartwarming read. After reading it, I found myself thanking God for sending me 4 obnoxious yet supportive older sisters.
Profile Image for Jaylia3.
752 reviews132 followers
December 11, 2014
What bibliophile could resist The Weird Sisters, a story about three book-loving but otherwise very different sisters all named for characters from Shakespeare? I’ve succumbed to its charms twice, reading the book in 2011 and listening to the audio version in 2014.

My review from 2011:

I loved this satisfying, hopeful, intelligent book from start to finish. It’s a sort of belated coming of age story about three twentysomething, verging on thirtysomething, sisters who grew up in the small college town where their father is employed as a Shakespeare scholar. Their mother has just been diagnosed with cancer and they are all back home to help.

Each sister is named for a heroine from Shakespeare and the title, The Weird Sisters, comes of course from Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. When Macbeth was written the word “weird” meant something closer to fate, and the book’s story contains a mixture of determinism, because each sister is influenced by being born with a particular birth order into a household consumed with Shakespeare, and free will, since each sister immediately sets out to carve her own life.

When I read in reviews that The Weird Sisters has a first person plural narrator, a "we" that includes all three sisters, I pictured a homogenized Greek chorus and was extremely skeptical that the book could delve deeply enough into any of them to be interesting. That turned out to be far from true, and far from being interchangeable these sisters have stark differences that make it hard for them to get along sometimes. Part of why the first person plural works so well though—and it would be worth reading the book for that alone—is that being family the sisters share the same history, have common understandings, and know each other very well.

And they all love reading. When a soon to be dumped New York City boyfriend of Bianca’s asks incredulously how she has time to finish a few hundred books a year, she narrows her eyes and in a speech that will thrill reading addicts tells him she doesn’t waste hours flipping through cable channels complaining that nothing is on, doesn’t fritter away her Sundays on pre-game, in-game and post-game TV, and doesn’t hang out every night drinking overpriced beer with other hot shot financial workers. Instead, every moment in line, on the train, or eating she--and her sisters--spend reading.

But their differences are as significant as their similarities and all three sisters have big decisions to make. Rosalind, the oldest, has a passion for order, being in charge and staying put, but her fiancé wants the two of them to move to England. Bianca, the middle child, has taken great risks, even breaking laws, because she longs for attention, glamour and the kind of cosmopolitan life that can only be found far from their Ohio hometown, but after being fired from her job she has to rethink everything. Cordelia, the youngest, has been living a sort of always on the road hippie vagabond life, but now she’s pregnant and putting off telling anyone or even thinking much about her situation.

Part of the book’s charm is its beautiful scenes, especially the ones of common childhood memories, like the time all three sisters danced with wild abandon on their porch, and the time they “borrowed” the family car, even though none of them was old enough to drive, because they wanted oversize, late night ice cream cones. I am hoping for another book from Eleanor Brown.

Profile Image for Liviu.
2,283 reviews639 followers
July 23, 2014
Another unexpected read that I opened by chance and it hooked me, this tale of the three sisters from a reasonably normal small college town family who take quite different life paths only to reunite when thei mother's illness and some major happenings in their life (pregnancy, marriage but also messed up career and heartbreak) brings them back to their home.

A fast and engaging read with well drawn characters
Profile Image for Tiffany PSquared.
494 reviews80 followers
February 10, 2018
“Sisters keep secrets. Because sisters' secrets are swords.”

The small college town of Barnwell, OH welcomes back three of its native daughters whose lives are all in varying degrees of utter catastrophe. Rose, who never truly left home, but is feeling the pressure of a fiancé whose big dreams lie overseas. Bean, whose New York aspirations have ultimately grown into something nefarious and criminal. And Cordy, the youngest, whose Bohemian lifestyle has finally managed to catch up to her in one big long-term way.

“Long ago she had thought bravery equaled wandering, the power was in the journey. Now she knew that, for her, it took no courage to leave; strength came from returning. Strength lay in staying.”

Written in a type of omniscient first person/third person voice who is basically a conglomeration of the psyches of all three sisters, this story of the Andreas girls commences with a reunion – of a sort – at their childhood home after receiving news that their mother is ill.

Brown does a fine job of weaving us through the present and past, nicely transitioning us through prom dates and managerial meetings, untraditional grade school classes and grown-up career choices without jarring us with abrupt chapter changes and awkward character shifts. With so many main characters, you would think that one would take precedence or that another would fall by the wayside becoming a bit less developed than the others. However, that is not the case. Brown fleshes them all out equally. We learn their tastes, their vices, their singular sins, and their hearts’ desires. I didn’t personally connect with all of the characters, and that’s perfectly fine. If I had, I think I’d be characterized as quite a split personality. Brown made sure that these were sisters, but not triplets. They each had their own unique traits and eccentricities, which isn’t an easy accomplishment for any author.

I related most to Rose, the careful, mothering eldest sister who is always on time and can mend a hangover, but who also becomes irate over spilled water and lackadaisical attitudes. Like Rose, the callousness of her sisters often irritated me too. And I sympathized with her dilemma of having to choose between her dream career and the man she loves. And, like her too, I always like to have a box of tissues on hand.

Another reader may just as easily have been able to identify with one of the other sisters: The careless drifter who has just received a large dose of reality, or the middle child who was so sure that her escape from this small, sleepy town had been final.

“I keep waiting to feel old, to feel like a grown-up, but I don't yet. Do you think that's the big secret adults keep from you? That you never feel like a grown-up?”

Admitting that this book was a slow burn the entire way through is tough for me. I so wanted to immediately like it. I wanted to breeze through it and sit at the end thinking, “Wow, what a great read!” Sorry, that didn’t happen. It was often a sad, depressing, and disheartening look at the uncertainty and complexity of life. It stood as a reminder to me (as if I needed to be reminded) that being an adult is often fraught with sadness, dissatisfaction, and dangerous decisions.

“We were fairly certain that if anyone made public the various and variegated ways in which being an adult sucked eggs, more people might opt out entirely.”

Despite the enticing title, the sisters didn’t appear to be any weirder than any of the rest of us who are also tackling our day-to-day hills and valleys. They read books (hello). They quote Shakespeare (could have been movies, or poetry, or Game of Thrones). And they have each made messes of their lives in some way, shape or form (been there, done that).

The truth of the title lies a little to the left of “weird”. We think of someone who is weird as being strange, eccentric or a little off-kilter. But to Shakespeare, the word was actually “wyrd” and it meant fate. So his three weird sisters were considered goddesses of destiny; and in Macbeth, it was of the sinister kind. Since Brown’s three sisters were named for three of Shakespeare’s heroines, they also carry this mantle of unruly goings-on that may have been rightfully earned through this association.

“We wear our names heavily. And though we have tried to escape their influence, they have seeped into us, and we find ourselves living their patterns again and again.”

I could easily recommend this book to fans of family drama who don’t mind an angst-filled, guilt-ridden story that feels a little rehearsed and familiar. Nonetheless, it is well-written and the unique narrative voice adds a special perspective. However, I found myself plodding through portions of the text wishing for the good parts, or if that wasn’t possible, just an ending that didn’t make me regret picking up this book in the first place. And, in the end, I didn’t.
Profile Image for Erica.
1,342 reviews441 followers
November 8, 2017
Eleanor Brown (the author of this book) spoke at our Staff Day this year. Turns out, she's a board member for our library district. I had no idea. I think I only know 2 of the members on the board since I stopped attending the meetings a few years back. So much has changed.
At any rate, Brown was delightful and hilarious as our keynote speaker and I decided we need to be BFFs. But I don't think that's going to happen so, instead, I read this, her first book and now we can't be BFFs because I'm not giving this a glowing five-star review and who wants to be friends with people who don't adore everything you do, right? I mean, that can't happen twice in a lifetime, can it?

Summary: Three sisters whose father was a Shakespeare professor and whose mother is a dreamer come home to Ohio. Cordelia/Cordy (named from King Lear) is the youngest, a flighty nomad who just assumes everything will turn out alright until she finds out she’s pregnant and realizes she can't bank on things working out on their own anymore; attention-starved sexpot Bianca/Bean (named from The Taming of the Shrew) who has been embezzling from the lawfirm for which she’d worked, never thinking about what would happen when she was caught and then she’s caught, fired, and left penniless; and Rosalind/Rose (named from As You Like It but also by any other name?), who never left her hometown because she felt she needed to be near the parents, is an uptight, humorless martyr whose fiance has accepted a teaching position abroad and Rose doesn’t want to go with him. They all move back into their parents' house, Rose to help with her mother, Bean to get back on her feet and reconcile with her recent past, and Cordy because impending baby, and get along about as well as you'd expect while their mother goes to chemo and their father constantly quotes Shakespeare all the damn time.

I enjoyed this story but, man, it was a difficult journey because I felt like I was stuck with all these people I didn't like; seriously, I don't think there was one character in this book to whom I felt attached in any way. I completely understand why none of these characters had any friends! None of them! The parents don't have friends, they only have each other and their daughters. The sisters don't have friends, they only have each other and their parents and the men-folk to whom they're attached. The menfolk don't have friends, the neighbors don't have friends, the librarian has no friends and it makes sense because none of them are like-able people. So while this was well-written, it was also tedious. Every few paragraphs, I'd sigh and wonder just how these fictional people manage to survive this fictional world.
There were things I did recognize, though, specifically three sisters coming together both because of personal issues and because their mother is diagnosed with cancer. That hit close to home, having just been through the exact same thing this year, though with a dramatically different outcome. For instance, Noelle (she would be the Bianca) and I (I'm the Rose) found out this holiday season that we're not on speaking terms with the youngest (the Cordelia) when our step-dad told us we were the reason she wasn't in attendance for the festivities. Noelle and I shrugged and were all nasty about it with things like, "Best Christmas present ever!" and other cruelties. But, really, it was nice to not have the drama at the table this past weekend and I am sure she was happier wherever she was because she would have been able to be herself and to have the spotlight that we consistently deny her.

You know what I did really like in this tale? The narrator (the one in the story not the person reading this audiobook). The Weird Sisters collective, all three of them as an omniscient unit, tell this story and I was absolutely charmed by that, possibly because I often feel part of a sister triumvirate but also because it was fun to have a classical-type storyteller recounting a contemporary tale.
Speaking of contemporary, though, I'm not sure when this was supposed to have taken place. I don't remember mention of cell phones or other mobile devices and there were things that happened that would not fly in these enlightened years but I also never picked up any hints at other decades, either. That caused bemusement now and again.

Before I finish, I want to clear up a couple of misconceptions, should someone not realize this story is not representative if the way the world works.
1) Libraries are rarely run by single librarians, even in small towns. When they are, the hours are quite limited, unlike the library in this book that seemed to have been open all the time. In addition, especially nowadays, it would be exceedingly rare for a person off the streets, someone who "loves the library", to be given a head librarian job with no prior experience other than spending time in the library as a child. That part is pure fantasy, people, so don't expect it to happen to you.
2) If your mother has had a radical mastectomy followed by radiation and chemo, don't expect her to come home and bake bread with you, not even after a month of convalescence. Just one of those things is hard to bounce back from. All three? Yeah, it takes awhile before moms can be up and moving for such long stretches of time. And if this did take place 20 years ago? Oof. She'd have taken months to heal and bread-baking would not have been on her list of things to do for quite awhile.

However, despite those little unrealities and despite the slew of irritation-inducing characters, I enjoyed the story as a whole, especially the narrator.
I understand Brown's second novel has been better received so I'll probably listen to that sometime this summer. In the meantime, I'm going to have to start stalking her and convincing her she really wants to be my BFF despite this non-glowing review.
Profile Image for Lauren.
497 reviews6 followers
February 8, 2014
Three women who have sort of failed at life show back up on their parents’ doorstep after finding out their mother has cancer. Eldest sister, Roselyn, is a control freak who uses her mother’s illness as an excuse to stay in her hometown while her fiance teaches in Oxford for a year. Middle sister, Bianca, ditched her small town to live the big city life in New York, embezzled lots of money from her company for designer clothing, skipped out on rent, and charged up her credit cards. Her return to home is a result of being broke with the threat of legal action hanging over her. Cordelia, the youngest, is a wanderer who spent several years after dropping out of school hitchhiking across the country and is now home because she’s pregnant with a child whose father she’s not really sure about.

If those names rang a bell to you, it might be because they’re all based on Shakespearean characters, as their father is a Shakespeare professor at the small college in their hometown. The kids, growing up with Shakespeare in their blood, quote the Bard regularly throughout the book, and the father speaks almost exclusively in prose. This is kind of the one thing that makes the family unique: all they seem to care about is Shakespeare and themselves.

I hated this book. Diana hated it before me, but by the time I found out her opinion on the book, I’d already bought it, and that cover is just too darn pretty to resist. The first few chapters are interesting enough, but then things just get painful. The characters are undeniably flat and seem to be cast from cookie cutter shapes of how sibling rivalries are supposed to play out. Oldest sister - control freak - shocker! Middle sister - desperate for attention - how novel! Youngest sister - the baby of the family who gets away with everything - you don’t say! Their personalities aren’t endearing at all, either. They’re undeniably stupid, despite all their Shakespeare-quoting, and it’s hard to sit down and read them whining over the mistakes they made over and over again.

The plot was boring and kind of propelled by Cordelia’s pregnancy, which was a rather uninspired way to move things along. The author tries to make up for the crappy plot by long, flowery descriptions, which to me, mean very little when nothing is really happening. The voice that this is written in, too, is weird - first person plural. As in “our mother has cancer,” “we love to read,” etc, etc. Speaking of the sisters’ love of reading, that’s what the author tries to use to make the sisters unique. I’m sorry - tons of people love reading, and with a host of mean, slutty, and selfish characteristics, you can’t make your characters more likeable by giving them one good one that people can relate to. Also, like Diana said, they never really mention the titles of the books they’re reading. Just “she picked up a book,” “she brought along a book,” “she was reading a book” - overwhelmingly lame.

This book got some positive reviews on Goodreads, which boggles my mind entirely. I mean, if you enjoy flowery descriptions with a boring plot or are really really really into Shakespeare, maybe you might find some redeeming qualities in it, but for me, I only finished this book so I could write a long review bitching about it for all you lovely followers. <3
Profile Image for Glenda.
286 reviews171 followers
November 19, 2022

Thanks to a friend of mine for this recommendation. I would have never given this book a second look. Instead, I got it, read it, and enjoyed it very much. The character development of the main characters is excellent.

The three weird sisters consist of:
Rose – the oldest;
Bianca – known mostly as Bean;
Cordelia – known mostly as Cordy

James Andreas is their father who is a professor of English literature and is somewhat obsessed with all Things Shakespeare. The Andreas’ named each child after a famous Shakespeare character.

The girls all return home after their mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer. She has a long road to recovery. They’re there ostensibly to help during this trying time. Each have secrets that are hidden from each other as well as their parents. Now, understand, the sisters love each other but don’t like each other very well. The book has some great lines as they bicker back and forth. Some I had to chuckle at.

As their mother goes through the grueling treatments associated with this horrible affliction, the girls are trying to work out different issues that they are battling.

This book was unique to me in two ways. First there are many lines from Shakespeare’s work mingled in their conversations with each other. Particularly the father, who oftentimes forms his conversation with Shakespearean quotes. The second is the fact that the author writes in plural first person style. Despite the risk it works wonderfully here. This is the first book I have read written in this style.

All are voracious readers. Books are strewn around the house in various stages of completion. The reader never knows exactly what anyone is reading.

There are minor characters that I feel could have been developed more. An example is the elderly librarian. I think she would have been an interesting addition in more detail. Also, I would have liked some book titles. Why? Perhaps I’m just nosy. IRL, if I see someone reading a book, even a complete stranger, I must find out the title. I know, it’s a sickness. This is why it was 4* for me and not five. The ending is perfect. All loose ends are tied. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Clif Hostetler.
1,106 reviews748 followers
February 10, 2017
This is the story of three sisters who have returned to their Ohio home town to help care for their mother who's receiving treatment for breast cancer. But it turns out that their simultaneous return home is more coincidental than prompted by desire to nurse their mother. All three are escaping their failures in life, all of which are different. The sisters themselves are all very much different from each other, the oldest a controlling homebody, the middle one a promiscuous spendthrift, and the youngest a wandering hippie-dropout (and pregnant).

They all disapprove of the failings in the other two, but only dimly comprehend their own failings. Their interaction takes place within the influence of their upbringing much inculcated by the spirit of their father, a college Shakespearean professor. Their father responds to all situations with an applicable quotation from The Bard. His daughters often do the same.

This book is a study of sisterly relationships, and for those searching this book to better understand themselves and their relationships the following quotation succinctly articulates such striving :
We think in some ways we have done this ourselves our whole lives, searching for the book that will give us the keys to ourselves, let us into a wholly formed personality as though it were a furnished room to let, as though we could walk in and look around and say to the grey haired landlady behind us, “We’ll take it.”
The voice of the narration mysteriously drifts from omnipresent third person to omnipresent second person speaking for the combined spirit of "we three sisters" (and sometimes two sisters examining the third). The author has included a positive disinterested role for a church pastor--something many secular authors fail to do.

This is a well written book that made the story of three young women interesting to even an old man such as myself.
Profile Image for Girls Gone Reading.
80 reviews40 followers
March 13, 2011
I read that Eleanor Brown simply wanted to write a book about families. She claimed that this caused her to incorporate Shakespeare and use the plural narrator. When I read her post on The Debutante Ball, Eleanor Brown claimed that her writing comes “haphazardly”. I, for one, don’t buy it-or if that is true I want some of it!

Because the truth is, The Weird Sisters is one of the most unique and most real books I have read lately. Unique and real don’t usually go hand-in-hand, but Brown managed it brilliantly. Each of the sisters was just like someone you know, and each one was still completely her own.

Brown, in The Weird Sisters, invites you into the world of Shakespeare, but it is tangible, accessible in a way your high school English class wasn’t. Shakespearean language flows out of this book. It lives like the Bard and Brown intended-taking language to a place few writers can.

I loved the writing, the characters, and the story of this book. So the only thing left to do is put down what you are reading now and go grab The Weird Sisters. Come on! Even Shakespeare wants you to!
Profile Image for Ron Charles.
1,049 reviews48.7k followers
November 26, 2013
This smart, hopeful novel by Washington-born author Eleanor Brown will be the winter's tale for any book lover who likes her entertainment laced with a touch of Shakespeare. A family drama, gracefully costumed in academic garb and lit with warm comedy, 'tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. From Michael Gruber's "Book of Air and Shadows" to Ross King's "Ex Libris" and Karen Joy Fowler's "Jane Austen Book Club," stories about literature are especially delightful to those of us who prize novels above our dukedom. So if you know a Stratfordian who's always quoting the Bard, get thee to a bookstore.

As in Shakespeare's problem plays, in "The Weird Sisters" the curtain rises on a scene that looks oddly comic and tragic: Dr. James Andreas, a renowned Shakespeare scholar, has three daughters (I know you're catching the allusions already, but hang on). When his wife receives a diagnosis of breast cancer, he calls them home to the Midwest with a quotation from "Titus Andronicus": "Come, let us go; and pray to all the gods/For our beloved mother in her pains." And so they move back to their parents' house, these three weird sisters, all around 30 years old, all jealous of one another's success, each secretly convinced that she's a failure.

The title refers to Macbeth's witches, and the sisters' rivalry will make you think of "King Lear," but despite some considerable crankiness, they're not witches or rivals, and their distracted father is closer to Prospero ("The Tempest"), cloistered away with his beloved books on an academic island in rural Ohio. Even though "The Weird Sisters" makes a thousand allusions to Shakespeare, it's no "A Thousand Acres," no modern-day retelling of one of the Bard's plays. Instead, Brown has created her own charming story about star-crossed siblings who just so happen to know the greatest English verse much better than they know themselves.

"We have been nursed and nurtured on the plays," they explain. "Sonnets were our nursery rhymes. The three of us were given advice and instruction in couplets; we were more likely to refer to a hated playmate as a 'fat-kidneyed rascal' than a jerk." They grew up "uniquely good at extemporaneous iambic pentameter," but discovered too late that this was not a skill in much demand outside their father's house. Even their names carry the burden of his obsession into adulthood: Ultra-controlling Rosalind ("As You Like It") refuses to let her career or her life move on; sexy Bianca ("The Taming of the Shrew") has just been fired from her New York law firm for stealing; and carefree Cordelia ("King Lear"), the baby of the three, returns home pregnant after seven years of drifting around the country as a hippie.

The pretense is that they've all come back to help care for Mom, but clearly these three adult children are in a kind of psychological convalescence themselves, shocked by their lives' crash landings, awed by the depth of their parents' love for each other and convinced they'll never find such a marriage themselves. "Would we remain this way, forever and ever?" they wonder nervously. "Would Bean always be chasing one man or another, Cordy eternally chasing some shadow of a person she might never become, and Rose herself chasing some shadow of the way things were Supposed to Be?" How will they relearn to speak to one another, these smart, wounded women who've been trained to communicate their "deepest feelings through the words of a man who has been dead for almost four hundred years"?

The story follows the course of their mother's chemotherapy and surgery, an ordeal that pushes the daughters to consider their parents' mortality and their own prospects. But these darker moments are leavened by strands of romantic comedy, the idealized charms of small-town life and flashbacks to the sisters' delightfully odd childhood in a home where opened books covered every surface.

The novel's greatest risk is its plural first-person narration, a rarely used perspective that works marvelously here. Alternately arch and casual, and always with a touch of comic melancholy, the three sisters together tell the whole story, an impossible "we" that traces each one's private anxieties and indiscretions, and subtly argues for their sisterly union even in moments of strident confrontation.

But I am not barren to bring forth complaints. The language in these pages can sometimes turn flat and cliched, and all the characters outside the Andreas family are merely walk-ons: The old spinster librarian is no more lifelike than my plastic Nancy Pearl action figure; the boyfriend banter is painfully cute and artificial. Despite all the claims about the family's bibliomania, we rarely get to see what anyone is actually reading, and it never seems to affect them any more than knitting or bird-watching might. Which raises a more fundamental problem about the family's devotion to Shakespeare: Brown's characters display a concordance-like grasp of the plays and can always lay their hands on an apt quotation to engage in a little Bard-banter, but they seem oblivious to the heart of these great works, reducing Shakespeare's words to clever slogans, like the Monet umbrellas for sale at the Met.

But let these objections exeunt stage right! Even the Immortal Bard could clot up a great play like "A Midsummer Night's Dream" with some tedious prattle. Brown is such a clever writer, and she's written such an endearing story about sisterly affection and the possibilities of redemption, that it's easy to recommend "The Weird Sisters." Take Polonius's good advice and "read on this book."

Profile Image for Roxanne.
857 reviews74 followers
August 23, 2011
I really wanted to like this book, but when I found myself putting it down time after time I knew I was kidding myself. First, the sisters were not really weird. They were immature, self-centered, mean, shallow and undeserving. Having five sisters of my own, I really did not identify with any of the characters or relationships in the book. Eventually each sister just got on my nerves. I could see the ending from a mile away. The book was packed with gimmicks.

Relationships between sisters can be multi-layered and complex. The premise of the book intrigued me, but it just became unbelievable. Cordy and Bean didn't come home to help care for their mother. One came home because she got fired from her job for stealing, the other because she was pregnant with no place to go.

I actually enjoyed the third-person plural (or, first-person plural) narration, but the Shakespearian quotes were overkill.

Most readers find an instant connection to characters who also love to read. I think this is what inspired me to actually finish the book.

I found the author's insistence that the family were such worldly readers rather ironic. I think they should have all been reading more self-help books. Or, maybe if their father wasn't so eccentric and they got to watch TV they might have been better equiped to deal with life.

I come away from the book with two memorable quotes ~

"There is no problem that a library card can't solve."

"See, we love each other. We just don't happen to like each other very much."

I am glad I got this from my local library and did not pay for it.

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