This is a book that I have had in my audiobook collection for years. Seriously, the fourth anniversary of this purchase is coming up in a week and I am just getting around to listening to it now.
I can’t remember exactly what made me want to read The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown, but my guess is it went something like this.
Sometime around the spring of my junior year or the fall of my senior year, I went for a walk into the small college town of Bronxville, NY.
Like most bookworms I was drawn into town by lure of a bookstore where I had purchased several classics and copies of books for school.
I saw The Weird Sisters on display and, being broke, didn’t really have the money to buy the hardcover version. (So sorry!)
I later checked out the book from Audible after graduation and although I had the best intentions to listen to it immediately, I wasn’t at a point in my life where I could negotiate listening to audiobooks.
So it sat in storage until now.
I don’t have a background in theater and I am definitely not an expert on Shakespeare, but The Weird Sisters’ plot drew me in. Whether it was because I was at a school where the theater program was so strong that new productions came up every week or an unbridled curiosity, is anyone’s guess.
The Weird Sisters is about, as you may have guessed, three sisters who have been named after three of Shakespeare’s heroines. Rosalind (Rose), Bianca (Bean), and Cordelia (Cordy) come back into town after they find out that their mother has breast cancer.
With the three sisters united under the same roof in a small Ohio town secrets are revealed and relationships tested. It’s a family drama that is both steeped in the stories of the Bard, and, at the same time, not.
Let me talk about how much I love this book! It deals with a lot of themes that I enjoy reading about: families, secrets, lies, and literature. The Andreas family is full of readers, but this isn’t a book that is steeped in obscure references.
No, the only person that has a deep understanding of Shakespeare and his works is girls’ father.
In the first few pages they talk about how their father has such a close relationship with William Shakespeare that he communicates deep feelings with pages from Riverside Shakespeare with pages so heavily annotated with notes and thoughts that the girls can barely make the lines their father highlights.
The number of times Shakespeare’s name appears in this book, let alone this review, might be a turn off for some people, but the sisters don’t have a particular affinity for Shakespeare. They are modern women, and this quote here is a quote that accurately displays the dichotomy:
Here is one of the problems with communicating in the words of a man who is not around to explain himself; it’s damn hard sometimes to tell what he was talking about! Look, the sheer fact that people have banged out book, after article, after dramatic interpretation of this guy, should tell you that despite his eloquence, he wasn’t the clearest of communicators. Not that any of us would ever say this to our father, but we had certainly thought it.
This juxtaposition makes for a great story. These three women are all highly educated people and yet have fallen pray to their own vices and mistakes.
The Weird Sisters is not a retelling of three Shakespeare’s heroines, although I am not the best person to give a close reading to that effect, but it’s about a family growing up with genius and forging their own path.
In telling three different threads, Eleanor Brown is able to keep the story moving. She fleshes out her characters well and gives ample description of them. She fleshes out the lives of the Andreas girl, providing backstory as well, and of course there are plenty of Shakespeare references.
As an audiobook, they book is a solid bet! From the second you pick up this book, you may notice that is written in first-person plural past. The sisters narrate together as a unified voice, which isn’t jarring at first but can be if you don’t read or listen closely.
If you listen to the opening lines it sounds like one sister will be narrating the book:
We came home because we were failures. We wouldn’t admit that, of course, not at first, not to ourselves, and certainly not to anyone else. We said we came home because our mother was ill, because we needed a break, a momentary pause before setting off for the next big thing, but the truth was, we had failed.
It isn’t until a few chapters later that it becomes clear that “We” refers to all the sisters. “I” never makes an appearance in the prose of this book except for the dialogue.
While it was initially a little confusing, I found the narration perfect for the book and Kirsten Potter’s voice is captivating.
She makes each sister jump off the page while still bringing a regal and refined to the overall voice for the three sisters as a whole.
In the end, I couldn’t imagine coming to this book any other way. The prose of this novel is poetic and beautiful and Kirsten Potter’s voice makes that come alive. I would highly recommend the audiobook.
FINAL RATING: 4 Stars