The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
The Weird Sisters was the July selection of the Sisters Book Club. To join our online discussion of this and future books—including our August book, Jung Chang’s Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China—join our Goodreads group.
There are some minor spoilers here, so if you’re sensitive to that kind of thing, you might want to read the book before reading this review.
I wasn’t terribly impressed with this book.
Some things that bothered me:
-It seemed like they all sort of got free passes on the mistakes they made, and I found that irritating and unrealistic. Embezzlement is easy and fun and carries only the most intangible of consequences. And who just walks into a place and gets offered a job? Apparently 100% of the Andreas sisters do (and still they don’t stop whining).
-The fact-checking problems annoyed me. Robins aren’t cavity nesters so they don’t live in birdhouses (ch. 12), you don’t knead gingerbread (ch. 22), and I found the progression of the pregnancy to be dramatically accelerated. Oh, and Rose lost 12 pounds in the first two weeks of college because she only ate in her dorm room, in the campus hangout, or in town (ch. 15)? Yep, I don’t buy that one. I lost 15 pounds in two months, but that was on a strict elimination diet. I don’t think burgers at the Student Union would have had the same effect unless the meat was tainted with E. coli.
-The sisters were all just stereotypes. First children do this, middle children do this, youngest do this, so that’s just what Rose, Bean, and Cordy are going to do. All three look alike and talk alike so the sisters end up being pretty interchangeable outside of their birth-order stereotypes. There’s even a conversation between Cordy and her dad in chapter nineteen in which Bean’s name is inserted for Cordy’s. I think it’s a sign of the interchangeability of the sisters that neither author nor editor picked up on this mistake.
-The library in the college town is run by one person? I’m incredulous about that one. As am I incredulous that the library system can be modernized by one person who has only a month or so of experience running a library (any library, not just the one being modernized).
-And why is it there’s such a focus on the women pairing off with romantic partners? Perhaps because that’s the sign that a woman truly has it together? Because a woman can’t be truly happy unless she’s in a romantic relationship? Maybe I’m being a little hard on Brown for this one. Maybe it’s not the pairing off per se so much as it’s the tied-up-in-a-bow nature of the ending of which the pairing off is just one part.
I’m on the fence about the first person plural narrator. I loved it when Jeffrey Eugenides used it in The Virgin Suicides, but I also think it makes more sense in that book than it does in this one. I think Brown is trying to make the point that there is a sort of sister consciousness separate from the individual relationships between the sisters. I’m just not sure the device does this very well.
What do I like about the book? Well, I laughed out loud at the kiss in chapter 13. I like that it’s set in Ohio, although I’ve known Ohio college towns (I went to college in one) and the idea that there would be no “townies vs students” blow-back seems unlikely to me.
It’s a nice story, with the sisters coming back together and growing to love and respect each other as adults, it’s just not as deep as I would have liked it to be. It’s too formulaic and too unrealistic to really pull me in. Maybe I would have liked it better if I were a bigger fan of the Bard.
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