Disclaimer: This was a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own. (And yes, I was allowed to dislike the book. But I didn’t.)
“There is no problem a library card can’t solve.”
This was the back cover hook, and a philosophy with which I wholeheartedly agree. The book came in the mail. A small white package – with my name on it. My book club book had arrived. The Weird Sisters, by Eleanor Brown.
And thus it was decreed – I’d be away for the weekend, somewhere in a different universe. Even considering my technical immersion as a Silicon Valley chic hipster, opening a new book has such magical powers.
It’s heft in my hands, the breeze shuffling its pages. The smell of ink bled on paper – intoxicating.
Curled up on the couch, beneath a blanket on a wet and windy winter day, I disappeared into hot, humid, summer swelter of Barnwell (a small university town somewhere near Columbus, Ohio). There I met three sisters weird. All home to face fear of failure. Hmm…I thought, I’m listening.
The story is told by all three women, using the first person plural, so you see the narrator as a unit – never intentionally affiliating yourself with any one character. Instead we can see ourselves in all three sisters.
The women are dealing with the realization that adulthood doesn’t come with an opt-out option. That, when it comes to family, love doesn’t always mean like and parents have lives too – with burdens, wishes, hopes and dreams. “When did you realize your parents were human? Have you even realized it yet?”
We all feel like a failure at times. Do others see our trials the same way we do? Success is different for each of us. Brown creates a world where we are all three protagonists – and all their fears, failures and focus. We’re all fuckups in our own special way.
- Rosalind, the eldest sister. The serious caretaker, with everything in its place. As You Like It – the exiled Duke Senior’s eldest daughter. Admired for her intelligence, quick wit, and beauty she is a faithful friend, leader, and schemer.
- Bianca, the middle daughter. A shadow of her sisters. Othello – Cassio’s jealous lover. Taming of the Shrew – sister of the shrew; the ingénue.
- Cordelia, the baby girl. The baby; the wanderer. King Lear – the youngest of King Lear’s three daughters. She is banished from the kingdom after refusing her father’s offer to profess her love for him in return for one-third of the land in his kingdom.
It’s undoubtedly difficult to live up to such renowned fictional namesakes.
The premise behind the eccentric Andreas family (that of the three weird sisters) is the quirk of their Shakespearean scholar father – the absent-minded professor in iambic pentameter – instead of expressing emotions, thoughts or feelings, the family simply quotes Shakespeare. Many of the emotions (and by association, the plotline) are notated in various Bard quotes.
This is one of the few flaws I found with “The Weird Sisters;” the quotes are not always identified. I have studied Shakespeare. I spent a summer in England, taking in the pleasures of Stratford upon Avon and I was still confused by many of the out-of-context statements. Yet, so much of the story is said specifically through what is not stated aloud. The characters are “gifted with communicating great depths of emotion through the semaphores of [their] sighs.”
Author Eleanor Brown makes it clear that specialized Shakespearean knowledge is not her purpose. Yet, I can’t help but feel that additional identification may have provided a richer backstory.
“All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances. And one man in his time plays many parts.” As You Like It.