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Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Brown's first novel, The Weird Sisters,is a smart, delightful book about three sisters who come home to their parents to lick their wounds and help their mother through a bout of cancer.  As tends to happen in these kinds of stories, each sister confronts a truth about herself and sets off on a new, hopefully better path.

At the start, the three sisters describe themselves as failures, which is not a term I would use.  Lost, certainly, and stuck in a rut, and having made some really bad decisions, but "failure" has a ring of finality to it that I don't think applies to them.  None of them has actually failed; for Rose and Cordy, an earlier stage of life has simply come to an end, and even in Bean's case the problem is not in her capabilities but in bad habits she needs to leave behind.

What makes this novel better than others of its ilk is how smart it is.  Brown does not make the mistake of thinking that a man will solve each of their problems, nor does she downplay the consequences of their behavior.  There is no false dichotomy between the city and the small hometown, between a career and a family, between academia and the real world.  While the end result for each of the family members is not surprising, it is not unearned, either.

What makes this book stylistically unusual is the choice of a first-person-plural narration.  The three sisters narrate the story together, as a "we," which does an excellent job of showing how these three people, as different as they are, have a shared history and love for each other.

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