by Eleanor Brown
(3.36 stars – Goodreads rating)
Published January 20, 2011, by Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam
Genre: Fiction / Literary Fiction
Format: Trade Paperback
Page Count: 374
Sisters keep secrets. Because sisters’ secrets are swords.
The small college town of Barnwell, OH welcomes back three of its native daughters whose lives are all in varying degrees of utter catastrophe. Rose, who never truly left home, but is feeling the pressure of a fiancé whose big dreams lie overseas. Bean, whose New York aspirations have ultimately grown into something nefarious and criminal. And Cordy, the youngest, whose Bohemian lifestyle has finally managed to catch up to her in one big long-term way.
Long ago she had thought bravery equaled wandering, the power was in the journey. Now she knew that, for her, it took no courage to leave; strength came from returning. Strength lay in staying.
Written in a type of omniscient first person/third person voice who is basically a conglomeration of the psyches of all three sisters, this story of the Andreas girls commences with a reunion – of a sort – at their childhood home after receiving news that their mother is ill.
Brown does a fine job of weaving us through the present and past, nicely transitioning us through prom dates and managerial meetings, untraditional grade school classes and grown-up career choices without jarring us with abrupt chapter changes and awkward character shifts. With so many main characters, you would think that one would take precedence or that another would fall by the wayside becoming a bit less developed than the others. However, that is not the case. Brown fleshes them all out equally. We learn their tastes, their vices, their singular sins, and their hearts’ desires. I didn’t personally connect with all of the characters, and that’s perfectly fine. If I had, I think I’d be characterized as quite a split personality. Brown made sure that these were sisters, but not triplets. They each had their own unique traits and eccentricities, which isn’t an easy accomplishment for any author.
I related most to Rose, the careful, mothering eldest sister who is always on time and can mend a hangover, but who also becomes irate over spilled water and lackadaisical attitudes. Like Rose, the callousness of her sisters often irritated me too. And I sympathized with her dilemma of having to choose between her dream career and the man she loves. And, like her too, I always like to have a box of tissues on hand.
Another reader may just as easily have been able to identify with one of the other sisters: The careless drifter who has just received a large dose of reality, or the middle child who was so sure that her escape from this small, sleepy town had been final.
I keep waiting to feel old, to feel like a grown-up, but I don’t yet. Do you think that’s the big secret adults keep from you? That you never feel like a grown-up?
Admitting that this book was a slow burn the entire way through is tough for me. I so wanted to immediately like it. I wanted to breeze through it and sit at the end thinking, “Wow, what a great read!” Sorry, that didn’t happen. It was often a sad, depressing, and disheartening look at the uncertainty and complexity of life. It stood as a reminder to me (as if I needed to be reminded) that being an adult is often fraught with sadness, dissatisfaction, and dangerous decisions.
We were fairly certain that if anyone made public the various and variegated ways in which being an adult sucked eggs, more people might opt out entirely.
Despite the enticing title, the sisters didn’t appear to be any weirder than any of the rest of us who are also tackling our day-to-day hills and valleys. They read books (hello). They quote Shakespeare (could have been movies, or poetry, or Game of Thrones). And they have each made messes of their lives in some way, shape or form (been there, done that).
The truth of the title lies a little to the left of “weird”. We think of someone who is weird as being strange, eccentric or a little off-kilter. But to Shakespeare, the word was actually “wyrd” and it meant fate. So his three weird sisters were considered goddesses of destiny; and in Macbeth, it was of the sinister kind. Since Brown’s three sisters were named for three of Shakespeare’s heroines, they also carry this mantle of unruly goings-on that may have been rightfully earned through this association.
We wear our names heavily. And though we have tried to escape their influence, they have seeped into us, and we find ourselves living their patterns again and again.
I could easily recommend this book to fans of family drama who don’t mind an angst-filled, guilt-ridden story that feels a little rehearsed and familiar. Nonetheless, it is well-written and the unique narrative voice adds a special perspective. However, I found myself plodding through portions of the text wishing for the good parts, or if that wasn’t possible, just an ending that didn’t make me regret picking up this book in the first place. And, in the end, I didn’t.
About the Author
Eleanor Brown is the New York Times and #1 international bestselling author of The Weird Sisters, The Light of Paris and the editor of the forthcoming anthology, A Paris All Your Own: Bestselling Women Writers on the City of Light. Her writing has been hailed by People magazine as “delightful” and “creative and original” by Library Journal. Born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area, Eleanor now lives in Colorado.