Whenever a bird flies into a window in Spring Green, Wisconsin, sisters Milly and Twiss get a visit. Twiss listens to the birds’ heartbeats, assessing what she can fix and what she can’t, while Milly listens to the heartaches of the people who’ve brought them. The two sisters have spent their lives nursing people and birds back to health.
But back in the summer of 1947, Milly was known as a great beauty with emerald eyes and Twiss was a brazen wild child who never wore a dress or did what she was told. That was the summer their golf pro father got into an accident that cost him both his swing and his charm, and their mother, the daughter of a wealthy jeweler, finally admitted their hardscrabble lives wouldn’t change. It was the summer their priest, Father Rice, announced that God didn’t exist and ran off to Mexico, and a boy named Asa finally caught Milly’s eye. And most unforgettably, it was the summer their cousin Bett came down from a town called Deadwater and changed the course of their lives forever.
Character analysis, atmosphere and subtlety are the name of the game in Rebecca Rasmussen’s lovely debut novel The Bird Sisters. Twiss & Milly are sisters in every sense of the word. Blood sisters, best friends, supporters, criticizers and playmates. Life in rural Wisconsin is slow, quiet and calm for the most part. That is until the church pastor walks away from his faith and his church community, the sisters father suffers unknowing damage from a freak accident and their cousin Bett arrives for the summer. The Bird Sisters was a slow start for me but once I found my rhythm and became familiar with the characters and their lives I became wrapped up in their stories.
I was disappointed to find myself unwillingly figuring out the secrets way too early that showed themselves later in the book. I don’t try to do that but my brain just sees things between the lines. The Bird Sisters surprised me when I found myself welling up due to the heartbreaking sadness that plagued the sisters and their family. It takes a lot for me to cry when reading and I didn’t realize how invested I was in this book until the first tear fell. Like the subtle story telling that Rebecca writes so beautifully the emotions crept up on me and took me over like the scent of flowers in a field as you drive by. Taboo topics are hinted at and then quietly brought to the forefront by Rebecca’s gentle hand.
Like The Bird Sisters, its author is sweet, lovely and full of layers. I had the sincere pleasure of not only meeting Rebecca Rasmussen last night at One More Page Books in Arlington, VA but because of the strange turn of events I had the opportunity to really talk with Rebecca and get to know her quickly but truthfully. This crazy weather we’ve been having here on the east coast played its tricks about fifteen minutes before Rebecca’s book event was to begin. Lightning and thunder struck just above the building that One More Page Books is in and that tripped the circuits. The fire alarms in the building block went off and weren’t reset for two hours. We all had to stand outside for forty minutes where I proceeded to melt and wither a bit. Eileen, the store owner and host took matters into her own hands and went across the street to La Cote D’Or Cafe, a quaint restaurant that graciously allowed One More Page Books to hold the book event in their dining room.
Once settled the evening proceeded smoothly and quite nicely. Instead of reading from The Bird Sisters Rebecca took questions from the audience. I really loved the way she could elaborate on a question and in a way tell a story to get her answer across. She made me feel better when she discussed the fact that some readers were finding it difficult to get settled into the book. I had felt the same way and though I love literary fiction and prefer it to “commercial fiction” I still found it challenging at first to find my groove with The Bird Sisters. Rebecca also answered questions about her publishing experience and sang her editor’s praises. All in all Rebecca Rasmussen was a joy to meet, talk with and listen to. If you get the chance to attend one of her upcoming events I highly recommend it. She will be on the east coast for a little while and you can check out her website for tour dates and locations HERE.
If you are looking for a beautifully written book to add to your TBR list pick up The Bird Sisters. The beautiful cover is just the icing on the cake with this book!