Well, this one was a shoe-in for me, seeing as I’m on the board of directors of a scrappy little Shakespeare Company, but still, I was surprised by how enchanted I was by The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown. Since my own recent novel is narrated by a Shakespeare-spouting heroine, I fell easily into the world of the family Andreas – dominated in a bookish, ethereal way, by the father, a renowned Shakespearean scholar who seldom converses in his own words if a quote from the Bard will suit the situation. (“Oh, Daddy, a Hamlet joke. How lovely. You shouldn’t have.”)
And so the daughters Andreas – Rosamund, Bianca and Cordelia – are all a bit, by any standards, weird. Brainy but passionate, deceitful but decent, peripatetic but a secret nester, respectively, all three women return to the house in the small Ohio town where they were raised to help their father cope with their mother’s sudden dire illness. Rosamund – Rose – like her father, a PhD, although in the far more logical field of mathematics, has never left the sphere of the university town she grew up in. Bianca – Bean – has fled back home from to avoid the consequences of succumbing to the variety of temptations in Manhattan. And Cordy, the baby, who has always been babied, is going to have a baby, without benefit of clergy, partner, money or job.
Narrated by the collective first person voice of the sisters, this book is a delightful, deft, witty read. The intimacy among the sisters is not cloying and the irritation and affection among them is heartfelt. I loved living in this world, and I didn’t want to leave it.
If you are one of the strange folk among us who is not a fan of Shakespeare, I beseech thee to have a go at this novel anyway if you are any of the following: a sister, a daughter, a reader, a sensualist, a baker, a clotheshorse, a mother, a cancer survivor, an academic, a Midwesterner familiar with the smell of ozone in the air just before a thunderstorm, a lover of summer in a small town, a lover of summer, a lunatic, a lover, or a poet.
Originally published Sunday, June 12, 2011