The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Summary ~ The Weird Sisters ~ The Andreas family is one of readers. Their father, a renowned Shakespeare professor who speaks almost entirely in verse, has named his three daughters after famous Shakespearean women. When the sisters return to their childhood home, ostensibly to care for their ailing mother, but really to lick their wounds and bury their secrets, they are horrified to find the others there. See, we love each other. We just don’t happen to like each other very much. But the sisters soon discover that everything they’ve been running from-one another, their small hometown, and themselves-might offer more than they ever expected.

This book surprised me!  I was a slightly afraid to read it because my mother-in-law had suggested it to me because of the similarities she was finding between the fictional family in The Weird Sisters and my family.  Getting started on book proved to be a bit challenging.  I had just finished reading Tatjana Soli’s The Lotus Eaters which is a thoroughly developed piece of historical fiction set in the tumultuous Vietnam War and the pace of The Weird Sisters took some getting used to.  Once I found the flow of the book I began to enjoy the characters and appreciate the plots.  There is a unique quality about this book that confused me initially.  It is told in plural first person.  I had never read a book in this style before and I kept wondering who was telling the story.  I was so distracting that I found myself Googling that question and was relieved to discover the answer.  Once I understood that there were three narrators, the sisters, I was good to go.  Turns out I wasn’t the only one with that problem.  My mother-in-law had the same confusion as have several people who shared about it on the Internet.

I think the most important thing about The Weird Sisters was what it taught me about Shakespeare.  Throughout the book Brown has the family communicate in difficult moments through the lines and quotes of Shakespeare plays.  She would also provide backdrop of the line and where and why it was said in the original play.  Putting Shakespeare into the context of an American story was brilliant and breathed new life and meaning into the old hum-drum words that I never could thoroughly understand on their own.  I think that incorporating The Weird Sisters into the Shakespeare curriculum in our schools and using it as a reference tool after reading it while reading the plays would help put things in perspective for the high school student of today.  At least I believe it would have for me and maybe I would have done much better than the C’s and D’s I got that semester in high school.

When I first started this book I also had the thought, “Not another character with cancer!”  I have started sharing this opinion with a dear friend of mine with terminal cancer.  She won’t read a book if cancer plays a part in it.  She doesn’t want to read about what she is living through.  Having said that I think that the way Brown wrote the mother’s story, her illness, treatments, horrible side effects and how everything effected her family around her was brilliant.  I learned that Brown’s mother is a twenty-two year survivor of breast cancer.  It showed that Brown had personal experience with the disease in some way because of the care and tenderness with which she wrote those scenes. 

With all that said, I truly took a lot away from reading this book.  I found the sisters, Rose (Rosalind), Bean (Bianca), and Cordy (Cordelia) to be all frustratingly relatable and foreign.  Rose is written like other eldest sisters are written in other books I’ve read but she learns her lesson with grace and quite unexpectedly which was nice.  I do have to say though that not all eldest siblings are the uptight, frumpy, and not as pretty as the rest.  Wink! Wink!  Bean was wicked fun to read and I felt that her problem was by far the most serious of the three sisters.  Cordy was enjoyable and I enjoyed seeing her grow up on the page and discover that she was valuable.  I enjoyed the men opposite each sister.  Rose’s fiance Jonathan was level-headed with a sense of adventure that nicely offset Rose.  Bean’s interactions with the handsome and engaging Father Aiden were a treat to read.  I was really rooting for Cordy when she started to work at the local coffee shop and was reconnected with its owner, Dan, the funny, thoughtful and concerned friend who helped her grow into adulthood without holding her hand too much. 

All in all The Weird Sisters and Eleanor Brown deserve the praises bloggers, newspapers (specifically The Washington Post), and the stints on bestseller lists have given.  A beautifully written book about family facing epic and miniscule problems and trying to make it out the other side with love, friendship and support. 

{Rating ~ 4 out of 5} 

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