Named after witches in the play Macbeth, The Weird Sisters is Eleanor Brown’s debut novel and a New York Times Bestseller. This book was my pick for World Book Night US that took place on April 23, 2014.
It’s been said that everyone comes from a dysfunctional family, and the Andreas family is no different. The parents and three sisters are a bit eccentric and definitely idiosyncratic. Their mother, who remains mysteriously unnamed in the book, plays a symbolic role in the story. Their father, a renowned Shakespearean scholar, can be difficult to understand as he speaks mostly in verse.
“Here’s one of the problems with communicating in the words of a man who is not around to explain himself: it’s damn hard sometimes to tell what he was talking about. Look, the sheer fact that people have banged out book after article after dramatic interpretation of this guy should tell you that despite his eloquence, he wasn’t the clearest of communicators. Not that any of us would ever say this to our father, but we had certainly thought it.”
The sisters were all named after heroines in Shakespeare’s plays. There’s Rose (Rosalind from As You Like It). She’s the oldest and the responsible one. Then there’s Bean (Bianca from The Taming of the Shrew). She’s the middle sister, the party girl. And finally, there’s Cordy, (Cordelia from King Lear). She’s the youngest sister and the bohemian.
An unusual feature of the book is the author’s use of the first person plural voice. In this narrative style, the character uses the collective “we” instead of the individual “I” so it seems like all the sisters are talking rather than just one. I have to admit that during my first read of the book, I found this style strange and confusing. After that, I hardly noticed it.
This story is about home, shame, secrets, complex relationships, Shakespeare and a family’s passion for books and reading.
“The library drew Bean down the street, as it had drawn all of us over the years. Our parents had trained us to become readers, and the town’s library had been the one place, other than church, that we visited every week. When we were young, we had three little red wagons that we would pull into town like a parade each Saturday morning, our mother at the head like the high-stepping grand marshal.”
The author is funny and perceptive and gives us a glimpse of life in small-town America. As the youngest of three sisters, I wonder which of the weird sisters she most identifies with. I also have sisters, and was struck by the authors uncanny ability to capture the sister’s complex dynamics. I gave a copy of the book to one of my sisters who agreed with my observations. Can you love someone, but not like them?
If you have siblings, especially sisters, you will relate.