THE WEIRD SISTERS by Eleanor Brown

weird sistersA best seller.  But, you know, just because something is a best seller, it doesn’t mean it will be a best seller for you.  Case in point.

This is an interesting story about three sisters, adults, who each move back home to their parents’ house in Ohio, ostensibly to ‘help out’ because their mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer, but really each has a secret underlying motive to move back home and not to continue on in her own life.

A good story, but it had some odd writing quirks. For one thing, it is narrated in the first person plural — we we we, talking about the sisters, which feels very strange because there is no narrator behind the omniscient ‘we’.   The narration changes to the third person singular when talking about each sister individually. Very odd. It also had the conceit of using the odd British phrase here and there, when the American phrase would have suited quite nicely. And the metaphors. Clunky, reaching, and all in all trying too hard.  The book felt like it was the product of some MFA creative writing program, where the author was trying desperately to impress the prof and the other students, instead of just telling the damn story.

And the damn story really was interesting, as were the characters. But it annoyed me to keep running up against the mechanics of the storytelling. Really, just too precious for my taste. Got in the way of a perfectly good story.

About a third into it, it improves.  That first person plural thing persists, much to my annoyance, but the number of forced metaphors drops enough to make me happier with the work.  OK, and now to the story.  And what I DID like about it:

It’s a great family.  They live in a little town in Ohio, a college town, where their father is a professor of Shakespeare, and is obsessed with Shakespeare, and most of his conversation is quotes from Shakespeare.   In Macbeth, the witches refer to themselves as ‘the weird sisters’, and since there were the three of them in the family,   the title of the book takes its reference from that.   The book is peppered with Shakespearean quotes, as quoted by the girls and their father

Our family has always communicated its deepest feelings through the words of a man who has been dead for almost four hundred years.

“Ah, it is my dog-hearted daughters,”  our father said, barely looking up from his book.  His clothes were rumpled, stray hairs crawled up his cheeks from his beard.

“A decrepit father takes delight to see his active child do deeds of youth,”  Cordy [the youngest sister] shot back.

“That’s a sonnet”, our father retorted.

“No one ever said sonnets didn’t count,” Cordy said.

“Ignore him,” our mother said, and her voice sounded reedy and thin.  “Come give me a kiss.”
“Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty,” Cordy singsonged.  “Is that better, Daddy?”

The three sisters are each very different from each other.  Rose [Rosamund] the oldest, has an obsession for order and neatness, for hearth and home.  Bean, (short for Bianca) has an overwhelming need for notice, for attention.  And Cordy [Cordelia] the wandering hippie of the three, has a longing for meaning and spiritual closure.  Each has a shameful (more or less) secret.  And these secrets eventually come out, and are resolved.  I love a happy ending.

I was amused by:

As schoolchildren, we presumed that when we left the library, she (the librarian) winked out of existence, flickering back like an image on a television set when we saw her at church, or went back for more books.

It’s true, isn’t it.  In fact, in some ways, I still feel that way about people in the bank and the stores, the peripheral people in my life.  They only exist when I am there.

And finally, a sliver from my favorite of Shakespeare’s set pieces, the St. Crispin’s Day speech.  (You know — that “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers” speech?  That one.

I earn what I eat, get what I wear, owe no man hate, envy no man’s happiness, glad of other men’s good.

If only we could all say the same.

 

 

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