Friday, July 27, 2012

The Weird Sisters

The Weird Sisters, by Eleanor Brown, is the perfect summer book for literature-minded readers.  The story revolves around an eccentric family:  Dr. James Andreas, renowned Shakespeare scholar and college professor; his three daughters-- Rosalind, Bianca and Cordelia, all named from characters in Shakespeare's plays; and their loving but dreamy mother.  Rose, Bean, and Cordy, as they are called, have all returned home, supposedly to help in their mother's convalescence from breast cancer.  In reality, each is grappling with her own sense of failure.

Rose, smart but plain, suffers from a lack of self-worth and is afraid to venture beyond the Iowa town of her birth.  She is a non-tenured math professor whose contract is due to run out in a couple of years.  Jonathan, her kind and nurturing fiance, is teaching at Oxford and beckons Rose to join him.  She has always acted as "mother" to the family and believes they will fall apart in her absence.

Bean, the insecure middle child, feels she has neither the academic acumen of Rose nor the charm and beauty of Cordy. Desiring to lead her own life, she runs off to Manhattan and secures a job in a law firm.  Unable to pay for the expensive lifestyle, complete with designer shoes and clothes, she  steals from payroll and gets herself fired.  Promising to pay the firm back, she returns home, and with Rose's help, gets a job in the town library.  But her lack of a moral compass follows her.  Seeking to forget her failure, she uses sex and alcohol indiscriminately.  Her secrets weigh heavily upon her.

Meanwhile, Cordy has a secret of her own.  She has lived like a gypsy for 4 years, following bands, living shabbily and loosely.  Her one-night-stand with an older artist leaves her pregnant.  She returns home, gets a job in the local coffee shop, and re-kindles the spark between herself and the owner of that shop.  Wishing to keep the baby, she non-the-less still longs for the open road.

Then there is Dr. Andreas, a father who seems removed from everyday life.  He spends his days re-reading Shakespeare's plays and quoting the Bard.  Like the Victorians who used the language of flowers to express their feelings, the Andreas family communicates solely though Shakespeare's words.  And like the Victorians, their deepest emotions remain unexpressed. Recalling an evening when they were fifteen, twelve and nine respectively, the sisters are wistful about their feelings for one another.  "We think about that night often," they remark, "but what comes back to us isn't the terrible ending but how free and happy we were together, and how we felt like together we could do anything, rule the world and damn the consequences. We remember ...the promise we made never to hurt anything ever again, and we wonder where those girls went, if they died with the doe that night on the road, or if they would have disappeared anyway." (p. 259)

The Weird Sisters is an endearing story of three 30-something sisters who must finally take stock of their lives.  It is comic as well as redemptive--a tale about making poor choices based on unresolved conflicts and coming to terms with the consequences.  It is about love--both filial and romantic.  In the hands of a lesser writer, the plot, with its literary allusions, would not work.  But Eleanor Brown has written a charming tale whose characters are well-developed, sympathetic and believable.

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Come to our lively book discussion of this book on Wednesday at 1 p.m, August 8, 2012. The discussion is led by Judy Levin.

1 comment:

  1. I listened to Eleanor being interviewed on the bookreportradio show with Elaine, and got the very strong impression that as a male, I should stay away from this book. To a certain extent I believe the same would go for female readers who don't have any sisters. The reviews I've read are all filled with praise...for reminding the reader of their own sisters, and domestic situation. Unless you love Shakespeare, I'd give this an insensitive skip.


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