Saturday, August 31, 2013

Wyrd-ed out

In what has become a fairly boring refrain I'm sure, I'm behind again. I don't know about you, but I'm kind of compulsive about completing things in their proper order. This post is about a book I finished last month and didn't find particularly memorable, but because I'm wedded to completion and proper order I can't get around to blogging about subsequent books until I get this one out. I realize I'm a grown-up and can skip around if I want, but there will always be this niggle in the back of my mind that I skipped something.

So, The Weird Sisters. It sounded promising: Three sisters raised in a Shakespeare-loving (no, make that Shakespeare-obsessed) household who return as adults when their mother is diagnosed with breast cancer. I enjoy the occasional academic tale (although I didn't like the last one very much), and if it's about the Bard even better. But Eleanor Brown's tale of three sisters, each named after a Shakespearean heroine and all deeply arrested development-wise, was pretty much a conceit wrapped around thin-as-air chick lit.

Narrated by an omniscient fourth sister -- who uses personal possessives (we, our) but never I (although I swear one time I did hear a third person "her") to tell the story -- we meet Rosalind (Rose), Bianca (Bean) and Cordelia (Cordy), daughters of a Shakepeare professor at a small college in Ohio. They're happy with the appellation "weird sisters" (from Act 2, Scene 1 of Macbeth), because they prefer the old Anglo Saxon spelling "wyrd," connoting fate. I guess that's pretty accurate because none of these women are in much command of their fates, permitting others to make decisions for them.

Rose has never really left home -- she supports herself by teaching math as an adjunct professor at a nearby, larger, university in Columbus. She's got a dishy fiancé, who is in England on a fellowship and encouraging her to come visit him. Bean is living a glamorous life in Manhattan, but has just been fired for embezzling from her employer in order to pay for it.  Cordy has been kicking around the country in an aimless series of nasty crashpads and suspect boyfriends but finds herself pregnant. When the girls learn of their mother's illness, they all come flying home.

And there they engage in sisterly squabbles, sibling competition and discovering what really matters while ostensibly caring for their mother and looking after their bereft father. Barnwell, Ohio is kind of this weird a-technology oasis as no one has a cell phone or searches for information on the Internet,  communicating by landline or letter. The single men living in this small town are pretty darn available (and caring and sensitive to boot) for Bean and Cordy. Not to mention that Bean is conveniently chosen to step in and replace the ancient librarian when she needs a job (OK, I'll admit I'm overly sensitive) -- a library, I might add, that still checks out books with a stamp pad.

Kirsten Potter is the narrator and she's fine. I've heard her a couple times before (all books for teens, for which I don't think she is suited) and she's not a favorite of mine -- she's kind of imperative in her readings, i.e., listen to this it is important.  But this is a good quality for the omniscient sister telling the story, there's some irony and skepticism that it is right for the "character." It's just somewhat tiring to listen to after a while.

In its defense, The Weird Sisters did hold some surprises in the end. The man we think is going to be right for Bean is sensibly not, and when Cordy's baby arrives, it gets a Shakespearean name, but not the one I was thinking of (Miranda).  But ultimately, I was very glad to come to the end of this one and to move on to something really different.

[Johann Heinrich Füssli/Henry Fuseli's portrait of Macbeth's witches (Die Drei Hexen) was painted in 1783 and now hangs in the Picture Gallery of the Royal Shakespeare Company (according to Emory University). Wikimedia Commons claims it for the Kuntshaus Zürich. (Of course, there could be more than one.)]

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
Narrated by Kirsten Potter
Books on Tape, 2011.  10:26

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