Book review: Flashbacks weigh down pace of 'The Weird Sisters'
AT A GLANCE
"The Weird Sisters"
By Eleanor Brown
Published: January 2011
Rating: 3 out of 5
“The Weird Sisters” by Eleanor Brown tells the story of the three Andreas sisters, who are all experiencing a point of crisis in their lives, coincidentally while their mother battles breast cancer.
They each use their mother’s illness as an excuse to come back to their hometown of Barnwell, Ohio, while they struggle with figuring out how to get their lives back on track.
The three sisters fit quite seamlessly into the clichés of youngest, middle and oldest sibling. The youngest, Cordelia (or Cordy), is flighty and still stuck in childhood, despite actually being in her late 20s. The middle child, Bianca (or Bean), desires attention from any source but particularly from men. Rose, the oldest sister, is the caretaker who must always have control of a situation.
They are each at battle with their respective stereotyped personalities. Just as they find out their mother has breast cancer, they are faced with a serious problem that completely disrupts the way they were living. Cordy finds out she is pregnant. Bean is fired from her job for embezzling a large amount of money but miraculously not arrested, provided she pays it all back. And Rose’s fiancé has accepted a job in England and asked Rose to move with him.
Before the action even really begins, the three sisters who narrate the book collectively have to tell the reader “how our family communicates, and to do that, we have to explain our family.” So a great portion of the book is spent on flashbacks and past memories of the girls growing up rather than on the turmoil currently happening within their lives.
While some of these scenes that drift into the past are helpful and important in establishing the characters of the three sisters, they begin to drag the book down and throw off the pacing of the novel. It seems like every time the story began to gain some momentum, I was dragged back into a memory of the siblings’ childhood.
And explaining how this family communicates is not a simple task. Their father is a professor at the local college, and his expertise is Shakespeare. The three women are named after three of the Bard’s heroines and share some personality traits with their namesakes.
The family often speaks to one another by quoting Shakespeare, which is interesting but also annoying because, while it conveys a significant aspect of their family’s relationship to one another, Shakespeare can be hard to understand, especially out of context. The sisters comment upon this a few times throughout the book.
However, there were a few harrowing and realistic moments within the novel. Their mother’s battle with breast cancer and the way the sisters handled the situation was incredibly real and moving. Coming back to their hometown to live with their parents really made the sisters feel like children again, but at the same time, they came back to take care of their mother. So the sisters float in this weird space between being children and being adults.
The novel took longer to read than it should have simply because it was so weighed down by constantly going into the past, but it had moments that were touching and realistic. It ended happily, exactly as I expected it to. It had great potential in the beginning, but unfortunately it just never really delivered.
Sarah Wilson is an English literature junior.