'Weird Sisters' are charming and fun - and not really all that weird

  • Article by: LAURIE HERTZEL , Star Tribune Staff Writer
  • Updated: February 5, 2011 - 7:03 PM

Eleanor Brown's likable debut novel is the story of three grown sisters who return home when their mother falls ill.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Eleanor Brown's likable debut novel is the story of three grown sisters who return home when their mother falls ill. The girls -- Rosalind, Bianca and Cordelia -- were named for Shakespearean heroines (their father is a professor, spouting quotations whenever he opens his mouth), though they go by the nicknames of Rose, Bean and Cordy.

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.

An unusual first-person-plural narrator -- as though all three sisters are somehow hovering above it all, telling the story together -- gives the book a theatrical tone.

There is Rose, afraid to leave home; Bean, who fled their small town early but has returned after making a grave mistake; and Cordy, the will-o-the-wisp, who is inconveniently pregnant. The book does not live up to the provocative cover quote ("See, we love each other. We just don't happen to like each other very much.") -- the sisters seem to like each other just fine, even as they occasionally quibble and bicker. But it is fun to watch them interact, to figure out their problems, to grow closer.

And while the father will drive you mad (does he never simply talk, but must always quote some pithy line from Shakespeare?), Brown's descriptions sparkle with feeling and originality. "At the back fence, where the honeysuckle grew in thick ropes around the pickets ... so many of our favorite summer memories were here ... the metallic taste of water from the hose, and the delicious spread of freedom in the hours arrayed across the sunlight."

 

  • THE WEIRD SISTERS

    By: Eleanor Brown.

    Publisher: Putnam/Amy Einhorn, 318 pages, $24.95.

    Review: Sisters -- each named for a Shakespearean heroine, and each fated in her own way -- come home to deal with their problems, and their mother's illness.

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