There are times when a book is worth struggling through 50 pages or more to make us want to finish it. However, – like many readers – I prefer that a book grabs me from page one and will not let me go. The latter is the most welcome case with “The Weird Sisters” by Eleanor Brown. The first sentence of the prologue reads “We came home because we were failures.”
My, my, what a lot of pathos and emotion in those few words. It is a deeply-felt story of the three Andreas sisters coming home ostensibly to care for their ailing mother, but really to lick their wounds and bury their secrets. They’re horrified to find each other there.
As much as this book is a story about family relationships, it’s also about books and the love of reading. This family feels there’s no problem that can’t be solved with the right book. They don’t go anywhere without a book, have books all over the house, and read voraciously. If that describes you, you gotta read this book. The Andreas sisters’ father is a Shakespearean professor at a small college in Ohio and named his daughters for famous Shakespearean women. They often speak to each other with lines of the bard’s works.
The author says, “Weird didn’t mean to Shakespeare what it means to us. The three witches in MacBeth are called weird, but they are really the three Fates. The sisters are quite tied up with the idea of destiny, and part of the story is their learning to accept what their fates really are, rather than heading grimly down the path of what they think they ought to be.”
Brown also says the sisters love each other but don’t like each other. “They have been running from one another, their small hometown and themselves but find the return there may offer more than they ever expected.”
She is fascinated by birth order and feels we carry the effects with us throughout our lives – just as we are always a product of our families and the intricacies of family relationships.
Immediately noticed is the odd voice in which this book is written. It’s called first person plural and isn’t often encountered; probably because it’s a tricky form. “I chose it because this isa story about family, and one of the ideas I wanted to raise is that we carry our families of origin with us always,” Brown said in an interview. “They helped form the way in which we see the world, for better or worse, and no matter how we may feel about them now, they are part of us.”
When she told a professor friend of her choice of narrative voice, he recommended William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”, which employs that technique.
Brown earned an M.A. in literature and her writing has been published in magazines, anthologies and journals.