Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

First-person-plural is an unusual stylistic choice for storytelling. First-time novelist Eleanor Brown makes it work in a story narrated by three sisters who don't like each other very much. The sisters come home to their parent's house in the American midwest while their mother undergoes treatment for breast cancer.

Rose (Rosalind), the oldest sister at 33, is the intelligent, responsible one. Bean (Bianca) is the attention-seeking bad girl. Cordy (Cordelia) is the adorable drifter searching for meaning, the baby of the family that everyone loves. All three have encountered big hurdles in their lives and their return home is an opportunity to reassess their priorities.

Their father, a college professor, chooses to communicate in quotations from Shakespeare. It's a quirk that would take some getting used to, I would think, but his family takes this in stride. Even so, they aren't always sure of what he means. "One of the problems with communicating in the words of a man who is not around to explain himself: it's damn hard sometimes to tell what he was talking about." His daughters have picked up the habit to a lesser extent.

I loved that all three sisters carry books and read everywhere. "[Bean] had long ago given up being offended by men who compulsively showered after sex. It was an excellent time to get a little reading done without anyone trying to talk to her."

Other aspects of the novel annoyed me. For example, there is Rose's attitude towards health and fitness: "[Rose] hated herself for not pushing harder, not fighting against our genetics to become strong and taut, like Bean." (Oh those lucky people who are genetically strong, without being physically active.) Overall, it was a bit too preachy and life-lessons-learned-y for my taste.

The sisters' struggles didn't fully engage me, but it was their voice, the "we," that made me persevere. I would recommend this to chick lit fans who also love Shakespeare.

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