Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown


I was so excited when I found Eleanor Brown's debut novel, The Weird Sisters. The premise? Three sisters come home to care for their ailing mother, and being together as a family helps each woman confront her problems and find peace. The only things these sisters share in common are a love of books and an encyclopedic knowledge of Shakespeare's works. Since I'm the oldest of three sisters, a former English Lit major, and a librarian, this book looked perfect. It's not perfect. 

Perhaps I demand too much from fiction that isn't set in some fantastic fairyland: If I'm not reading about believable, balanced characters, I'm quickly turned off. Sadly, Brown's characters are flat and one-dimensional: Rosalie, the eldest daughter, is the classic oldest-child control freak, a perfectionist who never stops criticizing others. Bianca, the second daughter, is a flashy man-eater. She is the classic example of a middle child who is still looking for attention in adulthood. And the baby of the family, Cordelia, is a free spirited hippie who never quite grew up. The story is boring and predictable because the sisters never break character.

I wanted Rose to have a secret vice that made her human. I wanted Bean to have a secret kindness that made her vulnerable. I wanted Cordy to have one--just one--responsible habit or neat-freak tendency that kept her from being a stereotype. But no such luck here.

In addition, the Shakespearean references that sounded so promising aren't as special as I'd hoped, because the Shakespearean elements don't add anything important to the greater whole of the story. The entire family just quotes Shakespeare at random, which feels like a clunky way of showing that hey, these characters are quirky and book-smart. Instead of making them seem interesting, though, it's distracting and pretentious.

There are a few shining moments: I like the flashbacks to childhood and the scenes in which the girls gently care for their mother after her mastectomy. And sometimes the overall theme is more important to a reader than a skillful characterization. If you're drawn to stories about finding redemption after making a bad choice, this story might appeal to you. Or if you crave change, you might like reading about characters who break out of tired roles and eventually do just that. Eventually.

3 comments:

  1. Jen - A creative, succinct, and perfect review! Well done!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Maggie,

      Thank you so much! Did you read it, too? What did you think?
      Thanks for stopping by and saying hi. :)

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  2. Ah, I´ve been looking forward to this review since that teaser. The characters sound wonderful.

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