The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

44 in my 2011 book blogging challenge.

The Weird Sisters is a beautiful novel about sibling relationships. Rose (Rosalind), Bean (Bianca), and Cordy (Cordelia) are the children of a Shakespeare professor. You Bard fans will note the Macbeth reference in the title as well as the characters each of the sisters are named for — Rosalind of As You Like It, Bianca of The Taming of the Shrew, and Cordelia of King Lear.

Their mother has cancer and needs them, and the sisters, all adults now, have come home. They just haven’t come home for their mother. They are all facing one kind of overwhelming crisis or another, and they all need their family to help them get back on their feet. They are a help to their mother nonetheless, and in facing her crisis as well as those of their sisters, they each find some degree of strength and even redemption in themselves.

The sisters are more than just named for Shakespearean characters; they are aptly named. Bianca, for example, is driven by her beauty and her attractiveness to men. Cordelia is her father’s favorite, as anyone named Cordelia by a Shakespeare professor would have to be.

Rosalind is strong-willed and quick to point out the faults of others but deeply afraid she will not be able to control her own problems. Rose has stayed behind while the man she loves has moved away because of this fear. Meanwhile, Bean is in huge financial trouble, and Cordy is pregnant with no means of even taking care of herself. Rose is nearly as hard on them as they are on themselves, but when it comes down to it, she still sees them as her little sisters, and she still steps in to help. In doing so, she finds the softer parts of her own character as well as the parts more willing to take risks.

The story is told in the plural third person. The narrator “We” is the collective voice of the three sisters. It is a lyrical and whimsical voice that knows every line ever written by the Bard. I very much enjoyed the story it had to tell me.

The Weird Sisters is quirky and funny and tragic and heart-wrenching. It is also smartly and beautifully done. Most of all, I see it as a redemption story. The three sisters on their own were all lost. When they came together again, they found their way again. They found it through books and through church and through community, but mostly they found it through each other. They remembered they were “We” and not just “I.” The very presence of the We helped them to remember who they really were and who they wanted to become.

It’s a good book. You’ll especially like it if you understand the Shakespeare references, but that isn’t necessary. The story of Rosalind, Bianca, and Cordelia is relevant enough in its own right. Knowing about their Shakespearean counterparts just gives them more layers, and layers are nearly always good — at least in books and winter clothing.

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