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The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
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The Weird Sisters (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Eleanor Brown

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1,6581734,341 (3.56)110
Member:ksionzi17
Title:The Weird Sisters
Authors:Eleanor Brown
Info:Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam (2011), Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
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The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (2011)

Recently added bypaupersgrave, arena100, billytoast, feenie1010, private library, bergney, sueross, robyndagmar, Bobo55
  1. 00
    The Silver Boat by Luanne Rice (Cecilturtle)
  2. 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.
  3. 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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Rose, Bean, and Cordy are the "weird sisters" of the title - which is a play on the characters from Shakespeare's Macbeth. In the Bard's time, the word "weird" (or "wyrd") had a different connotation than it does today, implying the effects of fate rather than being strange.

Shakespeare is all over this novel. The three Andreas sisters are daughters of a professor of Shakespeare at a small Ohio college. They are named for Shakespearean heroines: Rosalind (Rose) from As You Like It, Bianca (Bean) from The Taming of the Shrew, and Cordelia (Cordy) from King Lear. They are now ages 36, 33, and 30 respectively. They all wind up back at the family home at about the same time that summer, partly because their mother has breast cancer.

But there are other reasons too. Cordy has been wandering the country like a nomad since dropping out of college, but now finds herself pregnant. Bean zipped to New York City after earning her degree, but has been fired from her job for embezzlement, done to support her expensive tastes in clothes. Rose has a Ph.D. and teaches math at another Ohio college, and is engaged to marry a professor in another field, Jonathan. However, he's gone to Oxford, England, and wants Rose to join him, but she feels responsible for taking care of her mom.

The girls are readers (the whole book is a great celebration of reading), and their father in particular communicates with them via quotes from Shakespeare. Indeed, the book is full of his quotes, which I loved (although you don't have to be familiar with Shakespeare's works to understand the book). I wasn't too crazy about some other aspects of the book, though.

As another reviewer pointed out, Bean gets off unrealistically easy with her embezzlement (her employer just wants to be repaid and does not press charges). I also found it rather unrealistic (and insulting, being a librarian myself) for Bean to take over the town's library (operated by just one person?) AND implement a computerized library system with little experience and no formal training. (Is it clear that Bean was my least favorite character? I didn't find her particularly likeable - she sleeps with the husband of a favorite professor through much of the book.)

Cordy and Rose are stereotypes of the youngest child and oldest child in birth order, respectively. I liked Rose the best, possibly because (being the oldest) I could totally relate to her feelings of responsibility and obligation (and indispensability) towards her younger siblings and aging/ill parents. I was glad to see her change a bit as the story progressed.

I could also empathize with the tag line on the audiobook cover: "See, we love each other. We just don't happen to like each other very much." Just how my two younger sisters (who are nothing like Bean and Cordy) and I feel about each other!

The story is told mostly in first person plural - lots of "we" and "our mother" (or father or parents) even when the thoughts, words, and actions of only one sister are being described. In a Q&A on her website, debut author Eleanor Brown says "I chose it because this is a story about family, and one of the ideas I wanted to raise is that we carry our families of origin with us always. They helped form the way in which we see the world, for better or worse, and no matter how we may feel about them now, they are part of us. Even though Rose and Bean and Cordy are not close, they cannot separate themselves from their common history."

Actress Kirsten Potter's smooth narration added a lot to my enjoyment of this easy read.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[The audiobook was borrowed from and returned to my local public copy. I got a hardbound copy of the book in a book exchange, which I plan to keep and re-read. This review also appears on Bookin' It.] ( )
1 vote riofriotex | Feb 18, 2015 |
I think this might be the best book I have read all year. It was fantastic! It is about 3 adult sisters who return to their childhood home about the same time their mother receives a diagnosis of breast cancers. Each sister returns carrying her own burdens which are eventually divulged to the other sisters. The sisters are each named after a Shakespearean heroine as their father is a Shakespeare professor at the local liberal arts college and throughout the book there is a smattering of Shakespearean quotes and references. The author did such an amazing job of telling the story, I'm not quite sure how to describe it, but it was vivid and alive! Highly recommend!
  weejane | Nov 12, 2014 |
I wasn't terribly impressed with this book.

There are some minor spoilers here, so if you're sensitive to that kind of thing, you might want to read the book before reading this review.

Some things that bothered me:

-It seemed like they all sort of got free passes with the mistakes they made, and I found that irritating and unrealistic. Embezzlement is easy and fun and carries only the most intangible of consequences. And who just walks into a place and gets offered a job? Apparently 100% of the Andreas sisters do (and still they don't stop whining).

-The fact-checking problems annoyed me. Robins aren't cavity nesters so they don't live in birdhouses (ch. 12), you don't knead gingerbread (ch. 22), and I found the progression of the pregnancy to be dramatically accelerated. Oh, and Rose lost 12 pounds in the first two weeks of college because she only ate in her dorm room, in the campus hangout, or in town (ch. 15)? Yep, I don't buy that one. I lost 15 pounds in two months, but that was on a strict elimination diet. I don't think burgers at the Student Union would have had the same effect unless the meat was tainted with E. coli.

-The sisters were all just stereotypes. First children do this, middle children do this, youngest do this, so that's just what Rose, Bean, and Cordy are going to do. The only differences between them seem to be their birth-order stereotypes. All three look alike and talk alike so the sisters end up being pretty interchangeable. There's even a conversation between Cordy and her dad in chapter nineteen in which Bean's name is inserted for Cordy's. I think it's a sign of the interchangeability of the sisters that neither author nor editor picked up on this mistake.

-The library in the college town is run by one person? I'm incredulous about that one. As am I incredulous that the library system can be modernized by one person who has only a month or so of experience running a library (any library, not just the one being modernized).

-And why is it there's such a focus on the women pairing off with romantic partners? Perhaps because that's the sign that a woman truly has it together? Because a woman can't be truly happy unless she's in a romantic relationship? Maybe I'm being a little hard on Brown for this one. Maybe it's not the pairing off per se so much as it's the tied-up-in-a-bow nature of the ending of which the pairing off is a large part.

I'm on the fence about the first person plural narrator. I loved it when Jeffrey Eugenides used it in The Virgin Suicides, but I also think it makes more sense in that book than it does in this one. I think Brown is trying to make the point that there is a sort of sister consciousness separate from the individual relationships between the sisters. I'm just not sure the device does this very well.

What do I like about the book? Well, I laughed out loud at the kiss in chapter 13. I like that it's set in Ohio, although I've known Ohio college towns (I went to college in one) and the idea that there would be no "townies vs students" blow-back seems unlikely to me.

It's a nice story, with the sisters coming back together and growing to love and respect each other as adults, it's just not as deep as I would have liked it to be. It's too formulaic and too unrealistic to really pull me in. Maybe I would have liked it better if I were a bigger fan of the Bard. ( )
1 vote ImperfectCJ | Nov 6, 2014 |
sisters, family, ( )
  BONS | Jul 21, 2014 |
Loved it! Any book in which the works of Shakespeare are prominent has to be good! ( )
  darcy36 | Jul 8, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 172 (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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Epigraph
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
First words
We came home because we were failures.
Quotations
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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
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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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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