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Sunday, April 20, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 54.0° F  Fair
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BOOKS

A Book A Week: The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown


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I'm getting a little bored with books where nothing happens. It's not like I need explosions or car chases, but really, something has to happen or else I just... drift off. And so I drifted off a lot while reading Eleanor Brown's The Weird Sisters, a story about three sisters in their 20s and 30s who return to their Ohio town to care for their sick mother. They spend a lot of time ruminating over their relationships, their upbringing, and their futures, but don't do much of anything other than that.

Because their father is a Shakespeare scholar, this book is peppered with literary allusions, all helpfully printed in italics, in case you can't tell. And of course there is the book's title, and the names of the sisters, who are Rosalind, Bianca and Cordelia. The sisters neatly embody various literary stereotypes: the good daughter (Rosalind), the party girl (Bianca) and the artist (Cordelia). In spite of these handicaps I enjoyed reading the book, and finished it, with several detours to read other, more compelling choices.Brown at times writes in first-person plural, as if the sisters are all speaking as one. Hence they talk about "our mother" and things "we did" as children. It doesn't sound like it would work but it does. Brown uses the trick judiciously, and it highlights the sisters' closeness and sense of shared history and destiny. They speak almost as a Greek chorus at times, especially when they comment on their parents' relationship.

The sisters and their parents spend a lot of time reading. I like books where the characters read. Of course, reading about other people reading doesn't make for very interesting reading in itself, so there's that. But it did make me like the characters. Their reading felt very natural to me, and reminded me of my own house, where books are everywhere and everyone just reads whatever is close to hand.

This is a nice, sweet story where everything works out okay in the end. It's a good book for a bad day, or if you've recently witnessed too many explosions or car chases.


Becky Holmes blogs about books at A Book A Week.

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