Friday, February 4, 2011

The Weird Sisters

“I dreamt last night of three weird sisters…”

Told in the collective voice ala the original “weird sisters” of Macbeth fame, The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown is a wonderful new novel which follows the three Andreas sisters - young women brought up by their Shakespearean professor father to speak in verse and find life’s answers between the pages of a book. When their mother’s breast cancer draws them all home, the three sisters are inexplicably forced to deal with each other’s disappointments and face their own personal failures and fears.
“See, we love each other. We just don't happen to like each other very much.”
What I loved about this book is the wonderful contradiction between the feelings of the sisters, who live by the concept of loving each other because they must, but are unable to find joy within the bitterness that they feel toward each other, and the fact that these three women who are so separate are telling their story as one being. "I" is never used in this novel, it is always we, or our, or us. This is a group of women, who although they strive to be separate from each other (to the point of alienation), cannot stop being a group, are literally not whole unless together. This contradiction between plot and the narrative is inventive and compelling, a rather original use of storytelling by the author.

Also, Brown’s depiction of the strange and often bitter relationship between sisters is so smoothly and heart-wrenchingly drawn that I found myself nodding along recognizing if not actual events, but themes from my own life as a sister and my observations of sisters over the years. She does not hold back in creating a picture of the brutality of words and actions that only a sister can use to cut apart her sibling, and also the comfort and insight that only a sister can bring to a painful situation. No one can quite hurt you or comfort you like a sister and Brown captures that feeling intelligently and emotionally.

The Weird Sisters is deceptive in that at first glance it appears light, almost chick-lit, but after close reading is far more insightful than one would ever think. This is a touching and creative novel sure to bring laughter, tears, happiness, and at times, anger to even the most casual of readers.


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