Thursday, February 03, 2011

THE WEIRD SISTERS by Eleanor Brown

                                     I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

As a young girl, I became passionate about Shakespeare. I even took a summer enrichment course on Shakespeare. Just for fun. In high school, I relished the opportunity to act in our Shakespeare productions and dreamed of a day when I might be able to play Beatrice to the cute boy's Benedick.  So, it isn't surprising that I was drawn to this book by its title alone. The title, of course, refers the witches in Shakespeare's MACBETH. It also refers to the three grown sisters in Eleanor Brown's book.

Rose (Rosalind), Bean (Bianca) and Cordy (Cordelia) are the daugthers of Midwestern college professor who specializes in Shakespeare. The girls are raised to revere books and quote Shakespeare to one another in a way that proves they have a couplet for any occasion. Rose is the homebody whose idea of a perfect life is to settle in her hometown of Barnwell and teach math as a professor at her father's college.  Bean desires more and goes to New York City to achieve a glamorous life but must return home in shame when she is caught stealing from the law firm where she works.  Cordy is the wanderer who embodies a modern-day hippie. She can never seem to stay in one place.  When Cordy simultaneously discovers that she is pregnant and that her mother is very ill with cancer, Cordy returns home as well.  All three sisters are brought together for the first time in years and they must confront their past as they help to care for the ailing mother while trying to put together a future.

At first, I wasn't sure I was going to like this book. None of the sisters seemed particularly likeable to me. Each woman seemed self-absorbed in her own way. Even Rose's dutiful daugther act hides a martyr complex.  However, I was immediately charmed by the way the family quoted Shakespeare at one another and how they had such a profound love of books. Each sister is flawed but each sister also has her own positive attributes as well. I really liked how the mother's cancer served to bring them all together and force them to choose the path their lives would then take. It is interesting to see how the sisters evolve both together and independently of one another.  So much of the book is about the sisters trying to make sense of their identities both as individuals and in terms of how everyone else sees them.  It is a very likeable book with a heavy dose of Shakespeare mixed in.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. It took a little while for me to engage with the sisters but, when I did, I really enjoyed their personal journeys. I also rejoiced in getting to try and identify all of the Shakespearean quotations peppered throughout the book. Brown made me want to take down my COLLECTED WORKS OF SHAKESPEARE and rediscover the Bard all over again.

1 comment:

caroline said...

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