Monday, February 4, 2013

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

This month's book club selection is The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown.  The book jacket had me at, well not hello exactly, but at "there is no problem a library card can't solve."  That is a hook that will reel me in every time.  The Weird Sisters  follows Rose, Bean and Cordy, three daughters of an expert professor of Shakespeare whose real names are Rosalind, Bianca and Cordelia, named after women in the Bard's plays.  Rose refuses to leave the comfort and stability of living in her home town, Bean is running from mistakes she made living in New York and Cordy has come home after spending most of her adult life wandering from one place to the next.  Ostensibly, the three young women have returned home to care for their ailing mother, but of course there is more to it than that.
While I did really like this book, I must admit it left me wishing there was more to it.  More resolution perhaps, more depth, more meat.  And yet there was so much that was just right.  First of all, the book is written in omniscient first person plural, meaning that where another book might say "I did this or that"  this book said "we".  The reader really never knows who is speaking in which part of the book because the sisters are all one, telling the same story.  It is wonderfully refreshing and a fun change in perspective. 
Also an interesting aspect of this book is that though it is about sisters, they are not the best-friends-can't-stand-to-be-apart type of sisters.  The cover of the book explains it this way:
 "See, we love each other.  We just don't happen to like each other very much."
And early in the book is this quote:
"Sisters are supposed to be tight and connected, sharing family history and lore, laughing over misadventures.  But we are not that way.  We never have been, really..."
While I don't glory in any person's difficult relationships, it is more interesting and likely more realistic that these sisters do not share the same opinions or dispositions.  While one sister is hard working, responsible and a worrier, another floats from one job to the next and is constantly changing course and another has, shall we say, a difficult time with the concept of right and wrong.  And yet they still love one another. 
The writing in this novel was lovely.  The wording often made me stop and reread a passage out loud just to feel it on my tongue.  "Bean pulled a heavy towel from the stack of laundry, unwinding it from the lascivious position it had gotten into with a pillowcase."  Really?  That is a sentence worth repeating.  And also, while I freely admit that my own grammar shortcomings, I absolutely adored this bit, speaking of which men the sisters would or would not date:
"Because despite his money and his looks and all the good-on-paper attributes he possessed, he was not a reader, and well, let's just say that is the sort of nonsense up with which we will not put."
AHH!  That is a phrase to be savored "up with which we will not put".  I cannot tell you how many times I read and reread that little morsel.  I hate to end a sentence with a preposition though sometimes it is difficult to avoid, but Ms. Brown did it beautifully.  I am newly resolved to avoid prepositions at the end of my sentences.
Finally, what I liked most about this book was what drew me to it in the first place- the sisters' love of reading.  "For Rose, a life where, after our weekly trip to the library, she cleared the top of her dresser and set out her week's reading, stood them on their ends, pages fanned out, sending little puffs of text into the air.  For Bean, a life where the glamour and individuality she sought was only the gentle flick of a page away.  For Cordy...a life where she could retreat and be alone and yet transported."  This is exactly the way I have always felt about reading. 
Later, Bean "remembered one of her boyfriends asking, offhandedly how many books she read in a year.  'A few hundred,' she said.  'How do you have the time?' he asked, gobsmacked."  Then she lists all they ways that she fills her time with reading while other people are doing other things.  People often ask me that same question, though I can only aspire to reading a few hundred books a year.  I have gotten to them point where I just say, with as straight a face as possible, "I neglect my children and my house is a mess."  Sometimes I think they believe me.  Reading is a choice and to me a pleasure.  We make time in our lives for those things which we find important.  I have always been a reader and I anticipate that I always will be a reader. 
So, Smart Girl.  Have you read The Weird Sisters ?  Which sister would you be?  I'm almost certain I am a Rose...well, mostly anyway.


Amy said...

"I neglect my children and my house is a mess." - CLASSIC! Love it, and will steal it, with your kind permission ;) Readers United!

Amy said...
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