Thursday, February 9, 2012

To read or not to read. It's not a question.

Disclaimer:  This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

How do you know you loved a book?  For me, it's when I finish reading the book and actually forget I am done.  I still look forward to stealing and savoring a few moments, opening the book at my well-worn book marker, and reading what happens next.  When I remember that I finished the book I briefly mourn this fact and momentarily hate the author for not continuing the book a few more chapters.  Finally, after a few days, I can remember that I am DONE with the book and rather than be sad and hateful I can just bask in the fact that I have finished another great book!  That's what happened to me with this book.

If you have not read The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown, I recommend it.  Since you can easily find previews and reviews of this book anywhere on the net, I am going to give you a book review in list form!  Here it goes.

Why I think you will not be disappointed with The Weird Sisters

1.  Eleanor Brown uses the uncommon "first person plural" for the voice of the novel.  Yeah, I wasn't sure what that was either.  So, if it's been a while since you were in an English class, let me just tell you that this is a voice which allows for narration by various characters (one at a time) while also using "we" in the midst of that narration.  Huh?  Just know that this is the perfect voice for a story about a family because it reminds the reader that in a family we are each our own voice, but we also speak for our collective nature and memories.  AND, you end up with some beautifully structured sentiments such as the ones in this paragraph speaking about the mother's breast cancer:    "It must be so strange, Rose thought.  We had never made much trade in our breasts, small as they were on all of us, but to lose one?  Or both?  And our mother's breasts, the ones that had fed us, against which we had cried when we were young.  Oh, it was selfish of us to think it, but we missed them as well."

2.  The book is funny in the face of some dauntingly serious topics:  cancer, pregnancy before marriage, adultery, theft.  And some less daunting but still serious topics:  love, marriage, motherhood, fathering.  I found the humor in the contemporary use of language and style which I love because it felt hip and current and yet not overtly so as if it was written by a teenager.

3.  I thought at first that the Shakespearean quotes would be too much for me.  I am no Shakespeare guru and its been about 25 years since I've read anything by Shakespeare.  So, it's amazing that I found the quotes quite delightful.  The father of the girls has made Shakespeare his life and speaks almost entirely in Shakespearean quotes.  I was pleasantly surprised to see the evolution (in my mind) of this character from "crazy bat" to loving and invested father.

4.  I think this book will resonate with many.  I don't think you have to be a sister to enjoy this novel (as the title might lead you to believe).  I am the youngest of seven incredibly close sisters, and I spent the first half of the book trying to figure out with which sister I identified.  I came along "late" in life for my mother and therefore was raised essentially as an only child, but I could not imagine any of my sisters having such deep seated resentment for my other sisters (as the sisters in the novel seem to have toward each other).  So, much of the first part of the book I spent thinking about how incredible their relationships were.  Then I spent the second half of the book being incredibly sad.  I couldn't figure out why I was so sad.  After all - it's not the saddest book I've ever read.  I know now that I was sad because I had a glimpse into what might happen to my young family (my three daughters).  I could not stop thinking about their relationships with each other, what they will remember, how it will affect them for forever.  I was profoundly affected by this realization.  This is the first novel I have read involving a family with grown children where I identified strongly with the mother character.  Now, it could be because I am getting as old as the hills (I prefer to think that's not the reason), or it could be because Eleanor Brown has an uncanny ability to put the reader into the novel (yeah, that's what it is).  Either way, this was both extremely sad for me and simultaneously gave me great hope.  It's changed the way I will view my childrens' relationships (and that is a sign of a great book!). 

5.  Although the novel focuses on three sisters, there is a beautiful love story on which the novel is written.  That back story is the love of the father and mother for each other.  We learn that this is not a love without struggles and differences, but it is a love that has endured the test of time.  This made me think of my parents' love for each other.  Their marriage was 6o+ (I don't do details too well) years old when my mother passed away and I am sure it was not without struggles, arguments, worry over their children, but beneath it all - profound love for each other.  I don't think many people find love like that.  I am not usually a sucker for romance and I don't usually cry, but this paragraph brought me to tears and made my heart smile:  "...We have always wondered why there is not more research done on the children of happy marriages.  Our parents' love is not some grand passion, there are no swoons of lust, no ball gowns and tuxedos, but here is the truth:  they have not spent a night apart since the day they married.  How can we ever hope to find a love to live up to that?"

I will refrain from commenting about the ending because I hope you put this on your Must Read list.  Should you be interested, here is a link to an awesome book club and book review group. 
That's my list and I wish you happy reading!


Anonymous said...

Intriguing. We may have to look into reading this book...

Monica said...

thanks for the read! i really enjoyed the book - if you choose to read it i hope you like it too. :o)

LSS said...

I got this book from the library because of the title (with seven sisters myself, it was a MUST-READ!) and enjoyed every word. I was surprised that the sisters were portrayed as so different, since I think we are much more alike than different ... I was a little annoyed at the Shakespeare quotes at the beginning, but they easily become part of the "fabric" of the family language as the story progresses. I would definitely recommend -- whether or not you have siblings -- as an interesting perspective on how love binds families together ... so glad you enjoyed it!

Monica said...

thanks for the comment, sissy. yes, i really liked it. :o) your book recommendations for me have usually been spot-on. xoxo.