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18th January
written by Steph

Y’all, I have been waiting to talk about this book for soooo long. I think I first saw it posted on TLC tours sometime back in back in SEPTEMBER, so I’ve literally been sitting on this thing for months. Ok, fine, figuratively, since I haven’t in fact been perched on my galley copy of The Weird Sisters like a mother hen for three months, but it kind of feels like I have. I’ve been nursing a great secret, but now I can let it out: The Weird Sisters is a totally fab book and you must read it post haste. I was initially drawn to this book because of the Shakespearean connotation of the name (the weird sisters being the three witches in “Macbeth”). You know I love me the bard, so any book that alludes to the master of the English language is going to pique my interest. As I read the little blurb about the book, I realized the Shakespeare reference in the title was not mere coincidence but intentional, which thrilled me. Add to that the fact that book involves three sisters whose father is a professor of Shakespeare, and who all return home, beaten and bruised when disasters of various ilk strike, and I was sold. If this were a Cosmo quiz about books, my answer would say something to the effect of “If you chose mostly A’s: You are the kind of reader who loves books set in academia that are chocked full of literary references, and feature dysfunctional family drama to round things out.” If this also describes you, then The Weird Sisters is the book for you. We all know I’ve been eschewing plot summaries of late, so I don’t really want to elaborate on the plot of this book any more than I already have. As I said, the story revolves around three siblings who return to their small Ohioan town of Barnwell, each of them shouldering different burdens and misfortunes. You have Rose, the sensible and austere mathematics professor; Bean, the maneater with a passion for fashion; and Cordy, the flighty wandering baby of the bunch whose only goal in life is to be happy. An unlikely trio, the girls must look past a lifetime of rivalries and jealousies to find strength in one another as they face their greatest fears and learn that sometimes the hardest thing about life is not knowing what comes next. I really responded to and connected with this book. It was witty and funny, always a strength, but to me I loved how brightly its emotional core sparkled. The writing was lovely and lyrical, and perfectly highlighted the book’s delicate balance of the sad with the funny, the heartwarming with the heartbreaking. So many weighty issues are tackled in this book, and yet the one that struck me with the most force was the notion of how helpless and untethered we can feel when suddenly our life plan is derailed and the only constant in our life is uncertainty. Without a map to guide us or plans to follow, the world can be a scary place. For someone who’s a planner and has been pretty certain, more or less, of what I’ve wanted to do since I was about 16, it’s terrifying to realize that life may not be what I want anymore, and even more frighteningly, I don’t know what I do want. I really liked how all three of the Andreas girls struggle with what you do when life throws you a curve ball, and how the quest for self-knowledge and identity isn’t just something one struggles with as a teenager, but rather is something we will all grapple with throughout our lives. No one is stagnant, we all evolve and change, and so our conceptions of ourselves must mature as well, and this can be incredibly difficult. Learning to redefine ourselves, to embrace change as a catalyst for growth, to trust that even without a plan, things can still turn out well in ways we never expected.  I just really felt like there was so much emotional honesty in this novel, yet it was never presented in a patronizing way. The story of the girls is at the forefront with the theme delicately woven in so that you don’t entirely know what message to take away until you’re finished with it. I love when books keep you thinking the whole way through, and I truly felt that with each page turned, I learned a little bit more. In some ways, I didn’t expect this novel to be quite as domestic as it was, but I think it really worked. I loved the candid exploration of the sisters dynamic, and the way the parent-child relationship informs and motivates our behavior. There were a lot of poignant and raw moments, which I really appreciated. At times I was really reminded of Zöe Heller’s writing, and her novel The Believers, though this really has none of the abrasiveness of that book. I suppose that there was something in the style of the novel that was reminiscent and perhaps because there is that same examination of the way parents interact with their children when they are no longer kids but are instead independent adults. It’s always interesting to me to read books that examine the way the power dynamics shift and the way both parties can struggle with their new roles, unwilling or unable to relinquish the way things used to be. If I had any qualms with the novel, it would probably be that I never wrapped my head around the narrator. At times the story was told from the first person plural so that you think it is one of the sisters… but it’s not clear which one it would be. And then other times it shifts into the third person omniscient, so that the sister you thought was narrating is probably no longer the one in charge… but it doesn’t feel like there’s a rotating narrative, so I was just confused about that. Were all three sisters telling the story? I couldn’t tell you. At one point I thought maybe there was a secret fourth sister who was narrating everything for us and who would be revealed at the end, but I can assure you that that doesn’t happen, so I don’t think Brown was being willfully tricky with her narrators in that respect. All in all, a really rewarding book that was a true treat to read. For fellow booklovers, there is so much to enjoy in this book, not least because the Andreas family is a family of readers. So many little jewels about the different ways and whys of reading, which were a pleasure to encounter. Thanks to TLC Tours for allowing me to indulge in this wonderful novel. To check out others opinions, be sure to stop by other blogs featuring The Weird Sisters! Monday, January 17th:  1330V Wednesday, January 19th:  Jenn’s Bookshelves Thursday, January 20th:  Books, Movies, and Chinese Food Monday, January 24th:  Caribousmom Tuesday, January 25th:  I’m Booking It Wednesday, January 26th:  Book Addiction Thursday, January 27th:  Life in Review Monday, January 31st:  Sophisticated Dorkiness Tuesday, February 1st:  Rundpinne Wednesday, February 2nd:  Book Club Classics! Thursday, February 3rd:  At Home with Books Friday, February 4th:  Luxury Reading Monday, February 7th:  Simply Stacie Wednesday, February 9th: Life in the Thumb Friday, February 11th:  In the Next Room


  1. 01/18/2011

    So this is why The Weird Sisters were all over my Google Reader this week!

    I liked your musing on life plans, so very true. On my part I also know what I want, but the problem is that sometimes when I have it, it doesn’t quite live up to the expectations. My autobiography would be called: An Ode to Plan B 🙂

  2. 01/18/2011

    I have to read this book now! Steph, I loved your review! You had me at: “…the one that struck me with the most force was the notion of how helpless and untethered we can feel when suddenly our life plan is derailed and the only constant in our life is uncertainty. Without a map to guide us or plans to follow, the world can be a scary place.” That is exactly how I felt after I decided to quit working on my PhD. Plus, I love the idea of a book titled The Weird Sisters. Thanks for heads up, I’ll definitely be loading this one up on my Kindle. Cheers!

  3. 01/18/2011

    Sounds interesting! I’ve never heard of this book. I’ll have to go do some investigating. 😀

  4. 01/18/2011

    I have been reading a lot about this book all over the place, and your mention that it includes a really dysfunctional family got me interested. I think what sealed the deal was when you mentioned that this book is a lot like Heller’s book, which I am sure you know I adored. Up until now, I have been reading the reviews of this one with interest, but not really getting excited about it. After reading your very persuasive and enthusiastic review, I am all over this one! So glad to hear it’s such a good book, and I am looking forward to coming back and reading this again once I have finished with it.

  5. 01/18/2011

    This book has been a hot topic on Twitter of late, and all the chatter made me curious enough to check it out. It does look inviting. Really like the premise. And then you go and compare it to Zoe Heller’s The Believers, a personal favorite, so now I must read it of course. I usually shy away from domestic turmoil but really smart domestic turmoil works. Especially interested in how relationships change as children become adults probably because the topic is still in my mind from reading The Children’s Book.

  6. 01/19/2011

    @ Alex: So weird – I haven’t seen any other reviews of this one anywhere… I must be following the wrong blogs! 😉
    @ Nadia: I think grad school throws a lot of people into a tailspin… it certainly has for me!
    @ Amanda: Apparently there are loads of reviews out there, so I hope I’m not the lone voice touting its greatness!
    @ zibilee: I’m not sure what exactly about this book reminded me of Heller, but there definitely was something that made me feel the two were spiritual sisters. Maybe it was the writing? It’s just all very good, so I do hope you give it a try!
    @ Frances: This isn’t overwrought domestic turmoil, but rather very realistic family clashing that still has a lot of love behind it. I got so much out of this book, so I hope you do too!
    @ Erin: I’m always happy to take one for the team. In this case, it was a pleasure!
    @ Pam: I don’t even really discuss plot in this post, so there aren’t any spoilers… but please do come back once you’ve read the book!
    @ Jackie: I compare it to The Believers because some of the themes are similar and because there was something about the writing that made me think of Heller, but I don’t think you’ll find this nearly as difficult. The characters are largely very sympathetic, which I think is something that most people struggled with in Heller’s novel (the fact that the characters are NOT sympathetic), so I think this is probably a lot more accessible.

  7. 01/18/2011

    I’m really glad to hear you enjoyed this book! I’ve seen it advertised but wasn’t feeling bold enough to just pick it up for myself. Thanks for taking a look at it for me 🙂

  8. I have to be honest: I’m not reading any reviews of this because I’m terrified of spoiler. Eeek! I’m so excited about reading this. I’m going to come back around after I’m done with it!!

  9. I’m so torn about this book. It seems to be everywhere at the moment, but I keep hearing conflicting thoughts. Just in your review you comapre it to The Believers (a book I couldn’t finish) and then say it is a good book for examining the parent – child relationship (something I love!) I think I’ll wait for the dust to settle a bit and keep reading the reviews to see if I can work out whether or not it is for me.

  10. I’ve been itching to read this and now even more so! Dysfunctional family? Check. Academia? Check. Literary references (esoecially to the Bard)? Check. All things I love!

  11. 01/20/2011

    This sounds really great! I love books about academia, and family dramas are always interesting. I’ll keep my eye out for it!

  12. 01/21/2011

    @ Claire: Yes, this book is full of so many things I know fellow book bloggers tend to love! I am sure you will really get a kick out of it!
    @ Dorothy: Yes, academia is one of my literary vices. I can never resist books that are set there or involve universities in some way. I hope you enjoy this one!

  13. Meg

    I’ve only just begun reading this one but am already thoroughly enjoying it! So glad to see you enjoyed it, too.

  14. 02/10/2011

    @ Meg: I’m sure you’ll really love this one… It only gets better as you keep going!

  15. […] Reviews: 1330V | Steph & Tony Investigate | Jenn’s Bookshelves | Books, Movies & Chinese Food | Caribousmom | I’m Booking It […]

  16. 02/29/2012

    I fell in love with this book from the start. Eleanor Brown is an artist with words, conveying gorgeous images that bring each of her main characters to vivid life. I loved spending time with the Andreas sisters, and their story was so beautifully compelling that I know I’ll dive back in again and again. I recommend this without reservation — what a wonderful book.

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