Wednesday, January 28, 2015

451 (2015 #8). The Weird Sisters

by Eleanor Brown,
ready by Kirsten Potter

Rose, Bean, and Cordy are the "weird sisters" of the title - which is a play on the characters from Shakespeare's Macbeth.  In the Bard's time, the word "weird" (or "wyrd") had a different connotation than it does today, implying the effects of fate rather than being strange.

Shakespeare is all over this novel.  The three Andreas sisters are daughters of a professor of Shakespeare at a small Ohio college.  They are named for Shakespearean heroines:  Rosalind (Rose) from As You Like It, Bianca (Bean) from The Taming of the Shrew, and Cordelia (Cordy) from King Lear.  They are now ages 36, 33, and 30 respectively.  They all wind up back at the family home at about the same time that summer, partly because their mother has breast cancer.

But there are other reasons too.  Cordy has been wandering the country like a nomad since dropping out of college, but now finds herself pregnant.  Bean zipped to New York City after earning her degree, but has been fired from her job for embezzlement, done to support her expensive tastes in clothes.  Rose has a Ph.D. and teaches math at another Ohio college, and is engaged to marry a professor in another field, Jonathan.  However, he's gone to Oxford, England, and wants Rose to join him, but she feels responsible for taking care of her mom.

The girls are readers (the whole book is a great celebration of reading), and their father in particular communicates with them via quotes from Shakespeare.  Indeed, the book is full of his quotes, which I loved (although you don't have to be familiar with Shakespeare's works to understand the book).  I wasn't too crazy about some other aspects of the book, though.

As another reviewer pointed out, Bean gets off unrealistically easy with her embezzlement (her employer just wants to be repaid and does not press charges).  I also found it rather unrealistic (and insulting, being a librarian myself) for Bean to take over the town's library (operated by just one person?) AND implement a computerized library system with little experience and no formal training.  (Is it clear that Bean was my least favorite character?  I didn't find her particularly likeable - she sleeps with the husband of a favorite professor through much of the book.)

Cordy and Rose are stereotypes of the youngest child and oldest child in birth order, respectively.  I liked Rose the best, possibly because (being the oldest) I could totally relate to her feelings of responsibility and obligation (and indispensability) towards her younger siblings and aging/ill parents.  I was glad to see her change a bit as the story progressed.

I could also empathize with the tag line on the audiobook cover:  "See, we love each other.  We just don't happen to like each other very much."  Just how my two younger sisters (who are nothing like Bean and Cordy) and I feel about each other!

The story is told mostly in first person plural - lots of "we" and "our mother" (or father or parents) even when the thoughts, words, and actions of only one sister are being described.  In a Q&A on her website, debut author Eleanor Brown says "I chose it because this is a story about family, and one of the ideas I wanted to raise is that we carry our families of origin with us always. They helped form the way in which we see the world, for better or worse, and no matter how we may feel about them now, they are part of us. Even though Rose and Bean and Cordy are not close, they cannot separate themselves from their common history."

Actress Kirsten Potter's smooth narration added a lot to my enjoyment of this easy read.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[The audiobook was borrowed from and returned to my local public copy.  I got a hardbound copy of the book in a book exchange, which I plan to keep and re-read.]

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