Of the dozens of books I read each year—fiction, non fiction, funny, sad, dramatic—there are few that stand out as gems. There are many that stand out as good, even excellent. There are a lot I recommend to friends. There are some I file in my mind as ones to pick up if I ever need a familiar, comfortable read.
But occasionally I run across a book that makes me laugh and cry and feel for all the characters like I’m intruding on these people’s lives. Like I’m an uninvited guest who’s peering through the window shades, catching glimpses of the things they only say to themselves when they think no one is looking.
In a good way, I mean.
That’s what The Weird Sisters was for me.
It’s told in a unique first person plural of three sisters who, even though they are approaching or passing 30, are still learning how to grow up.
The oldest sister, Rose, is so terrified to leave the comfort and security of her hometown that her relationship is threatened.
The middle sister, Bean, returns home when she is out of options, but she can’t stop herself from lying and cheating even as she tries to force herself into being a better person.
The youngest sister, Cordy, is tired of letting the wind carry her where it will, but she doesn’t know how to tell her family she’s pregnant. (This is not a spoiler—you find it out very quickly.)
Tying them all together are a father who talks almost exclusively in Shakespeare quotes, a mother fighting an illness, and a librarian who knows there is no problem so great it cannot be fixed with a library card.
The feeling of unity really hit me, the way the sisters feel so deeply each others hurt and joy and love, but that they can’t communicate except in arguments and bickering. It’s a coming-of-age novel at its core. How can these three women learn to embrace their true selves, shed the stigmas of their pasts and move into a brighter future?
The book felt so real to me because of the struggle each character went through. It wasn’t just smooth sailing. They were fallible. Even though each of them knew what their problems were (eventually), it wasn’t a magical fix. They had to go through a journey of ups and downs before they could take action. And then they had to learn their lessons all over again.
I sympathized with each character, because I completely understand the feeling of falling over and over again, of having the same thoughts go through my mind and needing to work through a problem dozens of times (usually emerging with a dozen different answers) before I can really internalize the logical solution. Which was usually the first thing I thought of.
The Weird Sisters is a book for anyone who has sisters, or doesn’t have sisters. It’s for book lovers and Shakespeare lovers and Shakespeare haters (I mean, how would you like growing up in a house with no television and your dad reads Hamlet to you at bedtime?). It’s for anyone who still feels like they are a teenager, anyone who’s had to take a chance for love. Most of all, it’s for anyone who ever royally effed up, and is now paying the price.