Hey Internetland! As you know… or maybe not… I can’t remember if it’s in my About page… I work in an academic book store. We sell mostly textbooks but we bring in tradebooks every semester as well. Tradebooks are any book that is not a textbook. The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown was one of my tradebook picks for this semester. I found the book on the Penguin Group website and thought it sounded really good.
To be honest, it took me a while to get into this book. I just found it to be a little boring. I think it was partially the writing style. Brown wrote The Weird Sisters in first person plural. Instead of using “I” as the pronoun the speaker(s) use the pronoun “we” and I found it to be a little confusing before I got used to it. After I got used to the writing style I found it to be beautifully written and perfect for the type of story Brown was portraying. After I got used to the style I also found myself enjoying the book much more.
The story is about three sisters who do not talk often. They say that they love each other, but they do not particularly like each other. Their father, a Shakespearean professor, writes them all to tell them that their mother is sick. So each sister decides to move home, but not purely for the reason of taking care of their mother. The eldest daughter, Rosalind (named after the character from As You Like It) is about to get married but her fiancé is moving to England for a temporary position at Oxford. Rose decides to move home so she’s not reminded of the abandonment she feels. Bianca (named after the character from The Taming of the Shrew) lives in New York City and has been caught stealing money from her employers. Instead of sending her to jail, her employers fire her and demand she repay what she stole. Bean, as she’s known in her hometown, moves home in order to pay off her massive debts. Cordelia (named after one of the daughters in King Lear) is the youngest and she is a wanderer. She never stays in the same place for long, but she discovers she is pregnant. Little Cordy moves back to her parents’ place because, frankly, she has no clue what to do.
So all the sisters are living at home sweet home and they are all trying to figure out what they want out of life, but not willing to tell each other about their problems. One of things I didn’t like was that I felt I was constantly waiting for shit to hit the fan (pardon my French). For the whole story I was waiting for each sister’s other shoe to drop and when, eventually, they did it was a relief. In fact, I was just as relieved as the characters were. This is because Brown is an amazing writer and makes you feel as though you are experiencing what they characters are feeling.
There is a quote by Sarah Blake, the author of The Postmistress, on the cover of the book that says, “Even if you don’t have a sister, you may feel like you have one after reading..” I actually did find myself feeling this way. I always wished I had a sister. The closest thing to a sister I had were my older cousins, but I rarely got to see them growing up. Then I think of my friend who has two younger sisters and a whole bunch of drama in their family and I think… no… no, I’m okay with a brother.
Now time for a compliment sandwich:
I liked the interesting dynamic of the sisters. Each of their personalities was derived from the order in which they were born. Rose, the eldest, is the caretaker. Always sacrificing her own needs and wants for that of other. Bean, the middle, is always seeking attention, regardless of whether the attention is good or bad. Finally, Cordy, the youngest, always treated like the baby even at 27 years old. She has always been given what she wanted and could get away with murder if she wanted to. The downside if that no one thinks she can take care of herself.
Some things I didn’t like were that one of the quote describing the book on the website said this book is “at once hilarious, thought-provoking, and poignant” (J. Courtney Sullivan, national bestselling author of Commencement). I didn’t really find this book hilarious – thought-provoking and poignant, yes, but not hilarious. It felt more sad that funny to me. Here are these three fully grown women who have no direction in life and I just found myself thinking that it was really sad…
I also didn’t like that I felt no deep connection to any of the sisters. They are very different than I am and I found myself not being able to care about them at the beginning. Near the middle I started caring but at the beginning I almost put the book aside because I didn’t connect to the characters. I know I said earlier that Brown’s writing makes you feel the same as the characters, but at the beginning I didn’t feel that way.
Now, for the last part of the compliment sandwich: At the end of this book there is a section of discussion questions. The reason I like this is because it really makes you think about the book and the meanings. It’s like the essay questions in school that you needed to answer. Or in my case, the essay questions I needed to think up before giving my English students an exam. I wish the books I taught during my internship had discussion questions in them. These questions also make this book excellent for book clubs. Assign the book and a question to each book club member and then at the meeting everyone has a topic to discuss.
Since I am on the topic of the discussion questions I thought I would talk about one of them.
#12: The sisters say, “We have always wondered why there is not more research done on the children of happy marriages.” How does their parents’ love story affect the sisters?
I have always wondered the same thing. There is so much research done on children from dysfunctional families, but in reality children from functional families can be at risk as well. In the case of The Weird Sisters, I think their parents’ relationship, being as strong as it is, has set the sisters’ standards for relationship too high. They are constantly looking for something that it like their parents’ love and are substituting that love for something else.
Well, Internetland, that is all I have to say about Eleanor Brown’s The Weird Sisters. It wasn’t totally my cup of tea, but it was beautifully written.