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The Weird Sisters

by Eleanor Brown

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,3682264,644 (3.5)130
Unwillingly brought together to care for their ailing mother, three sisters who were named after famous Shakespearean characters discover that everything they have been avoiding may prove more worthwhile than expected.
  1. 00
    Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler (Anonymous user)
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    The Solomon Sisters Wise Up by Melissa Senate (Micheller7)
  3. 00
    The Silver Boat by Luanne Rice (Cecilturtle)
  4. 11
    Juliet by Anne Fortier (elbakerone)
    elbakerone: Both books center on heroines named after Shakespearean characters and deal with the theme of a destiny or personality based on their literary counterparts.
  5. 11
    Sisters by Danielle Steel (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Similar story line - 3 sisters who come home to deal with a family crisis and end up facing their own demons.
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Showing 1-5 of 223 (next | show all)
An interesting literary family dramedy peppered with Shakespeare quotes. ( )
  DrFuriosa | Dec 4, 2020 |
I love this book, again! What stuck with me most from my first read, was the idea of a household and family so attached to books (and Shakespeare in particular). Delightful! especially the way they pass through the house, picking up books (in the pantry!) that others have set down in one long continuous read-in. "We weave in and out of words like tourists on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour. Put a book down in the kitchen to go to the bathroom and you might return to find it gone, replaced by another of equal interest. We are indiscriminate." (23) "How can we explain what books and reading mean to our family, the gift of libraries, or pages? .... it wasn't a life without, it was a life with." (70) The weird sisters are Rosalind (Rose) 33, Bianca (Bean) 30 and Cordelia (Cordy) 27 all named for Shakespearean heroines by their professor father and intellectual mother. Currently, their mother has breast cancer, so all the "girls" come home for the summer, though in reality they have their own reasons to return to Barnwell, OH (afraid of marriage to Jonathan, embezzlement in NYC, and pregnancy from a one-night stand while on the road, respectively). "Will alone could not make Rose brave, could not make Bean honest, could not make Cordy sensible. Weren't we proof of that, this sad sisterhood, bound as much by our failures, as by our hopes?" (216) So there in close quarters in the off-season college town, in the midst of family challenges, they all settle into familiar patterns of behavior as sisters and daughters, but at the same time confronting their personal demons. Theirs is not a conventional sisterly relationship, though it has moments; its levels of complexity is also what make this book so rich. "See we love one another. We just don't happen to like one another very much." (26) "Sisters keep secrets. Because sisters' secrets are swords." (269) It seems like a lot going on, but the author handles it all deftly and the narration with an omniscient "we" voice shows how closely the 3 are identified with each other. "How was it possible all these years and experiences later, that no one could wound us like the others?" (135) Rose is the dependable one, Bean is the daredevil, and Cordy is the dreamer, but Brown does a great job of developing them beyond these stereotypical roles to be truly interesting and dynamic individual characters. The parents are interesting too and dispense a lot of wisdom -- mostly in the form of Shakespearean quotes (their father). When their mother's illness reaches a crisis point, they are all forced to think beyond themselves and their own problems to confront the bigger (life and death) one. "Had we always been so selfish, presuming our parents' lives began only when we did, and ceased, living in suspended animation, when we were outside of their orbit? Were they spinning through their days, just like us, a jumble of memories, emotions, wishes, hopes, regrets?" (231) Ultimately, the sisters do some growing up, come to terms with their problems and all things are resolved satisfactorily, like a Shakespearean comedy, at the end. Such a creative approach to familial relationships and to the importance of books and reading! "We think, in some ways, we have all done this our whole lives, searching for the book that will give us the key to ourselves, let us into a wholly formed personality as though it were a furnished room to let. As though we could walk in and look around and say to the gray-haired landlady behind us, 'We'll take it.'" (245) ( )
  CarrieWuj | Oct 24, 2020 |
The most memorable part of this book is the voice -- three sisters, in a first-person plural voice. Brown does this well and stays true to the spirit and dynamics of sisters. I loved the small college town setting and the sense of place the author conveys, as well as the conflicted feelings of a young adult returning home to care for an ailing parent. This all rang true. The Shakespeare bits got a little tiresome, and overall I grew weary of this book. YET I liked it. ( )
  ljohns | Jun 15, 2020 |
Eleanor Brown's debut novel The Weird Sisters is an absolute gem. I was hooked from the first few pages.

"We think, in some ways, we have all done this our whole lives, searching for the book that will give us the keys to ourselves, let us into a wholly formed personality as though it were a furnished room to let. As though we could walk in and look around and say to the gray-haired landlady behind us, "We'll take it." ~pg. 271

And what bibliophile hasn't done this, while young? Or even somewhat older....?


This book is absolutely pitch perfect. Finding a book where an entire family, the Andreas family of Barnwell, Ohio feels that "there is no problem a library card can't solve" and where each family member is literally never more than an arm's length away from a book was like uncovering a treasure. And, since the father is a well-known Shakespeare scholar and the family communicates with each other through quotes from the Bard, I cheerfully settled down for an evening of reading. It's no surprise that I LOVE books, of all kinds. I read everywhere. I never go without a book. I HATE not having a book to read, and it makes me quite distressed.. I have also spent most my childhood with my "nose buried in a book", which annoyed my mother to no end.

This is the first book I have read that uses a first-person-plural narrative style, and it was so completely appropriate; you get the sense that this book came together with these three sisters sitting around a Pensieve after the events of this book have transpired, looking at them playing out again, and dictating the story to the author, who has set up shop with a typewriter in the adjacent corner of the room. I was constantly struck by the realization that you can love your sisters (or siblings) and really not like them very much. And the experiences of growing up with brothers and sisters (or in this case, just sisters) becomes such a part of our personalities that in our adult lives, we can often feel as if we are 9, 12, or 15 years old when we interact with each other. And I still do!

All three of the sisters are self-involved and conflicted and their personalities definitely reflect their birth order. I really came to like all three of the sisters as the book progressed. Especially when the narration took the reader back into their childhood years and we learn about their relationships as they matured--and how they understood and misunderstood each other. An excellent reflection on the meaning of family and ties that bind us close together and push us far apart.

And the author? What a way with words! It is not hyperbole to say that there is a jewel of prose on nearly every single page of this book. One of the reviews on the back cover talks about it in terms of alchemy-- the magic and science of wordplay, combining everyday and ordinary words into phrases and lines of pure gold. (And the way the author managed to weave in so much of Shakespeare's original words so naturally and seamlessly is certainly another credit to her mastery and skill.)

As for the story itself? If this novel were a dissertation, its thesis statement would be found in the first paragraph of page 211. Ultimately, it is a story about identity. Who we are, whether we can change, and how the road of life will always lead us back to the truth of those issues, but so many times, we're too afraid of what we might encounter, and so we take multiple (and completely unnecessary) detours along the way. Whether you have only brothers or are a single child, this novel will resonate with you. It did with me, and not because I am the middle child of three sisters. (I was raised mostly by my mom, and on my own.) ( )
  stephanie_M | Apr 30, 2020 |
terrific ( )
  nwieme | Mar 19, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 223 (next | show all)
"Indeed, The Weird Sisters is a book worth celebrating. Because their father is a renowned Shakespearean scholar, the Andreas family communicates largely through the words of the Bard. It is not unusual for them to drop Shakespearean quotes into a conversation about, say, wedding rings or what to eat for breakfast."
added by clamairy | editBookPage, Amy Scribner (Mar 2, 2011)
 
There are times when the sisters are exasperated by the burden imposed on them. “Sometimes we had the overwhelming urge to grab our father by the shoulders and shake him until the meaning of his obtuse quotations fell from his mouth like loosened teeth,” they say. Readers may sometimes feel similarly about Ms. Brown but more often appreciate the good sense and good humor that keep her story buoyant. She does have storytelling talent. Or, to quote one of the Weird Sisters quoting you-know-who: “This is a gift that I have; simple, simple.”
 
Eleanor Brown's likable debut novel is the story of three grown sisters who return home when their mother falls ill.....The first third of the book moves slowly, with too much explanation of who the sisters are, and too much insistence on how different each is from the other, and a sort of bulky setting-up of their rather implausible situations, and -- enough, already! Get the story moving! And when it does start moving, it is a delight.

 

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But we only called the fire brigade, and soon the fire engine came and three tall men in helmets brought a hose into the house and Mr. Prothero got out just in time before they turned it on. Nobody could have had a noisier Christmas Eve. And when the firemen turned off the hose and were standing in the wet, smoky room, Jim's Aunt, Miss Prothero, came downstairs and peered in at them. Jim and I waited, very quietly, to hear what she would say to them. She said the right thing, always. She looked at the three tall firemen in their shining helmets, standing among the smoke and cinders and dissolving snowballs, and she said, "Would you like anything to read?" —DYLAN THOMAS, A Child's Christmas In Wales
I dreamt last night of the three weird sisters. —WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, Macbeth
Dedication
TO CHRIS, For springtime, for a rock-and-roll show, forever
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We came home because we were failures.
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She never managed to find herself in these books no matter how she tried, exhuming traits from between the pages and donning them for an hour, a day, a week. We think, in some ways, we have all done this our whole lives, searching for the book that will give us the keys to ourselves, let us into a wholly formed personality as though it were a furnished room to let. As though we could walk in and look around and say to the gray-haired landlady behind us, "We'll take it."
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.
She narrowed her eyes and considered the array of potential answers in front of her. Because I don't spend hours flippping through cable complaining there's nothing on? Because my entire Sunday is not eaten up with pre-game, in-game, and post-game talking heads? Because I do not spend every night drinking overpriced beer and engaging dick-swinging contests with the other financirati? Because when I am waiting in line, at the gym, on the train, eating lunch, I am not complaining about the wait/staring into space/admiring myself in available reflective surfaces? I am reading!
What if the name you were given had already been lived in?
He was not a reader. And that was the sort of nonsense up with which we will not put.
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Unwillingly brought together to care for their ailing mother, three sisters who were named after famous Shakespearean characters discover that everything they have been avoiding may prove more worthwhile than expected.

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Unlucky in work, love, and life, the Andreas sisters return to their childhood home. Each has a secret she's unwilling to share — each has come home to lick her own wounds.

The Andreas family is an eccentric one. Books are their passion (There is no problem a library card can't solve), TV something other families watched. Their father — a renowned professor of Shakespeare who communicates almost exclusively in verse — named all three girls for great Shakespearean women — Rose (Rosalind), Bean (Bianca), and Cordy (Cordelia) — as a result, the sisters find that they have a lot to live up to.

With this burden, the Andreas sisters have a difficult time communicating with their parents and their lovers, but especially with one another.

What can the homebody and shy eldest sister, the fast-living and mysterious middle child, and the bohemian youngest sibling have in common? Why can't Rose leave her hometown for the man she loves? Why has glamorous Bean come home from New York City with her tail between her legs, to the small college town she swore she'd leave as soon as she could? And why has Cordy suddenly resurfaced after years of gypsy living? Each sister has found her life nothing like she had thought it would be — and now, as they are faced with their parents' frailty and their own disappointments and setbacks, their usual quick salve of a book can't solve what ails them.

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