Book Review: The Weird Sisters

Note: I was compensated for this BlogHer Book Club review, but all opinions expressed are my own.

If you’re not a girl with a sister, you might not understand the relationships in The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown.

There are a lot of books about brothers. Brothers solving mysteries together. Brothers soldiering through wars. Brothers rescuing brothers. There are fewer literary examples of sisters.

You might say, “Little Women!” And I say, “Please.” Because little women was a family of girls. I’m talking about the relationships between sisters. And yes, there is a difference.

Rosalind (Rose), Bianca (Bean), and Cordelia (Cordy) are three sisters who live in what, at times, appears to be the kind of world you can only find in a novel. Small-town bred by a dreamy mother and a Shakespeare-obsessed father (thus the names), they each spiraled away from each other in an attempt to find their place in the world, only to be thrown back together by their own failures. At first, I admit, the whimsical way they seem to speak and see each other was a bit grating — does anyone actually talk/live like this? But as the book goes on, the characters become sharper, more real. And you learn that given their upbringing, it’s really more of a fantasy to think they could have turned out any differently.

In the end, though, it was the ties between the sisters that resonated with me (which was the point). As one half of a rather dynamic sisterhood myself, I share the sisters’ complaint early in the novel:

We see stories in magazines or newspapers sometimes, or read novels, about the deep and loving relationships between sisters. Sisters are supposed to be tight and connected, sharing family history and lore, laughing over misadventures. But we are not that way. We never have been, really, because even our partnering was more for spite than for love. Who are these sisters who act like this, who treat each other as their best friends? We have never met them. We know plenty of sisters who get along well, certainly, but wherefore the myth?

What I liked about this book — really liked about it — was the honest assessment of the competitiveness that comes with being sisters. I’m not sure brothers have this emotion. Whereas brothers tend to band together, sisters learn to define themselves by whatever their sisters are not. In the case of our weird sisters, Rose is the practical, responsible, achieving one; Bean is the pretty, boy-drawing one; Cordy is the rambling, undependable-but-loveable one. The sisters start to lose themselves in these identities to the point where they feel there can’t possibly be two smart ones. Two attractive ones. Two capable ones. Let alone three brave ones.

Sometimes, they are cruel to each other. At others, they are unbelievably gentle. But to be perfectly honest, I’ve never met sisters who didn’t behave that way.

Over all, I recommend the book. It has a sort of lilting cadence to it (which I have to imagine was inspired by the idea of iambic pentameter) that’s soothing to read, and though things manage to tie themselves up into an almost too-perfect bow in the end (heck, according to Shakespeare the only other option would be tragedy, in which everyone would have to die), it doesn’t discredit the rest of the story.

Has anyone else read this one? I’m sure I’m forgetting some other book about sisters (ahem)…anyone care to remind me? And if you want to read more reviews, check out these other responses from the BlogHer Book Club and join the conversation!

3 thoughts on “Book Review: The Weird Sisters

  1. You make a good point about sisters defining themselves by whatever the other sister is not. I hadn’t really thought of it that way before! I have a sister, but she is 7 years younger so our only rivalry has come down to how much more lenient my parents have been raising their last daughter as essentially an only child. šŸ™‚

    Regarding books about sisters… does it count to bring up the original Shakespeare plays? The Taming of the Shrew and King Lear!

    • Original Shakespeare definitely counts — I think Taming of the Shrew evens backs up my point šŸ˜‰ Thanks for commenting!

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