The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen

 Summary ~ The Bird Sisters~ Love is timeless. So too is heartbreak.

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!
 
Rebecca Rasmussen & Me with The Bird Sisters
 {Rating ~ 4 out of 5}

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}