I did something I almost never do before reading The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown. I read reader reviews on GoodReads.
As usual it was a mistake.
While there were more good reviews than bad, I focused on what the people had to say in the “bad” reviews. Because I am all obsessive like that. Luckily these reviews didn’t sway my excitement to start reading, but I wish I hadn’t read them. I don’t like going into a new book with other people’s opinions just like I don’t like meeting a student after hearing what other teachers have to say about him/her.
Nerd Alert: The thing that attracted me to this book the most was the fact that it was heavily doused in Shakespeare references and quotes. Yup, I am an English teacher through and through. Although I don’t think you need to know really anything about Shakespeare to enjoy this book…but if you happen to know even a little about The Bard and any of his work, it will be that much more pleasurable.
One of the more annoying reader comments I saw was that “the title doesn’t fit the book. The sisters aren’t weird.” You don’t need a PhD in Shakespeare’s Literature to know why this comment is ignorant. The text of the book explains this to the reader over and over. The original “weird sisters” were the three witches from MacBeth by William Shakespeare. And Shakespeare actually used the original Anglo-Saxon spelling “wyrd” which meant “fated” or “destined”.
The title is definitely spot-on with this definition of the word “weird”.
The novel is about three sisters in their late 20′s/early 30′s: Rosalind, Bianca, and Cordelia (all names taken from Shakespeare’s plays) who grew up with a father who was not just obsessed with The Bard, but was a professor of Shakespeare at the local college.
Each sister took a different path in life. Rose, the eldest, stayed close to home after getting her PhD and became a professor of mathematics and met the man she is currently engaged to marry. Bianca, the middle sister whom they call Bean, fled to NYC in order to escape small-town life. And Cordelia, nicknamed Cordy, is the youngest–a free-spirit who dropped out of college and roamed the country living off whatever she could.
The common denominator that brings them all back home is that their mother has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and has to undergo chemo and radiation and a mastectomy.
But each sister is home for another reason too…each has a secret that draws them back to their Shakespeare-quoting, book-obsessed family. A long-distant relationship, fear of change, fear of sameness, embezzlement, an unplanned pregnancy. While they say they are there for their mother, the sisters are a bit wrapped up in their own problems as well.
Another hurdle some readers have had with this book is the point of view it is written in. It’s first person, but it’s plural…and omniscient. It’s as if the story is being told from all the sisters at the same time…that they are one. I have never read a book from this sort of perspective and I loved it. It was definitely symbolic of the fact that even though the sisters didn’t have that stereotypical closeness some literary sisters have (I’m thinking of the March sisters in Little Women), there was still a unity there. A knowing of each other better than anyone else.
This book honestly re-sparked my need to read.
Not because I have sisters and I can relate so well, but because it was just a GOOD BOOK.
I can only imagine that having sisters enhances the reading experience much like my knowledge of Shakespeare enhanced mine. It’s not required, but it’s nice.
I have been in sort of a funk lately only sort of enjoying the books that I’ve been reading. I miss the feeling of having a book I look forward to all day long and then can’t put down even though I need the sleep.
This book was like that. Yes, I had a deadline so I could do this review, but I blew that deadline out of the water. And I am already halfway through my next book.
I loved and hated something about each character in this book. That made them real to me. That made the book worth reading.
Interested in the book? Come read more reviews and check out our discussion at BlogHer Book Club.
Note: I was compensated for this BlogHer Book Club review but all opinions expressed are my own.