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3.8 out of 5 stars
The Weird Sisters
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315 of 327 people found the following review helpful
on January 20, 2011
Well, what a breath of fresh air. I just loved this. Eleanor Brown has a unique and compelling voice, which she marshals to brilliant effect in this deeply affecting story about three sisters who have lost their way and retreat to the questionable comforts of their childhood home. She draws all her characters with deft precision and you can't help but care for them, no matter what faults they may have (and they all have faults.) Warning: this is one of those books which is best read alone. There are nuggets on every page that you'll want to share with whoever is sitting close to you, but they'd probably prefer just to read it for themselves. And it's funny as hell, too. Highly recommended.
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150 of 167 people found the following review helpful
This is one of those books that I don't feel worthy to write a review about. I absolutely loved this book. Right from the beginning I was immediately sucked into the story. Any book about sisters and reading gets an automatic 5 star in my book. Coming from a family of three girls who all love reading, I felt drawn to this family like a moth to the light. I may not have loved everything that these sisters did but I loved reading about them, learning about them, and discovering more how their lives had an effect on everyone they came in contact with.

The story is deeply engaging and right from the beginning I felt as if I was connected with the characters. I both felt sympathized and got angry with all three women and their decisions. Even though we don't meet Cordy until a bit later on in the book, I felt as if I already knew her through Bean and Rosalie's views. Each sister holds a sad story but eventually overcomes it and finds a better and new outcome in life for herself.

The best part of the story for me was the obvious love of books. One of my favorite scenes in the book was when Bean is trying to explain to an ex boyfriend why she has time for reading. She talks about how she doesn't sit for hours in front a TV mindlessly watching. She always has a book on her so that way when she's at line in the store or in a waiting room she can just pull out her book and start reading. I just absolutely love how the whole family loves books. Another favorite part of the book was the different reading styles of the three sisters. From reading out front in everyone to avoiding everyone because of reading to hiding your reading from everyone, the three girls still know how to enjoy a good book. In this retrospect, they sound just like my family. Three sisters who have been known to lose themselves into a good read.

The only thing that threw me off about the book was the unknown narrator. I'm not sure if I missed if the narrator was revealed or if it's left to the reader to decide who it is by the end of the story. It just confused me in the beginning of the book because the narrator speaks in first person and uses words such as "our father, our mother" yet all of the girls are spoken about in third person. I don't find it annoying or a distraction to the story because you get used to it after a while. It was just different way of writing for me.

This is a wonderful debut novel and I look forward to reading more from Brown. If you love a sister story, Shakespeare or reading in general, this will be a perfect read for you. HIGHLY recommended.
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173 of 198 people found the following review helpful
The thorny relationship between sisters has offered a mother lode of material for writers dating back to the start of time. Shakespeare tackled it in King Lear; in modern times, authors that vary from Louisa May Alcott to Julia Glass and Jane Smiley have put their personal spin on this theme.

Now debut author Eleanor Brown takes her turn. Meet Rosalind, Bianca, and Cordelia, three sisters named for Shakespearean heroines by their eccentric and professorial father. These are women who look very much alike, maintain a common family bond, but if truth be told, don't like each other very much.

Ms. Brown defines the roles that sisters are inevitably forced to play within the structure of the family. She writes, "Who would Bean be if she dropped her beautiful mask? Who would Cordy be if she stepped up to the plate in her own life? And who would Rose be if she weren't the responsible one anymore?"

These are the questions the three sisters are forced to explore when twists of life bring the two younger prodigal sisters back to their collegial hometown, just at the point when their mother has received a breast cancer diagnosis. Each is at a cross point: Rose must decide whether to burst free from her self-imposed safety net, spread her wings, and follow her fiancée to his once-in-a-lifetime job in London. Bean is running from significant debt that she needed "to play her part effectively: the shoes, clothes, the makeup, the drinks at bars and clubs where a bottle of water alone ran nearly ten dollars." And Cordy? The baby of the family has discovered that she herself is pregnant with her own baby.

Eleanor Brown chooses to use the third-person plural to demonstrate the "we-ness" of these sisters, who are threads of the same cloth, tied in together for life. Third-person plural is not an easy tense to pull off, and truth be known, there is an awkwardness in it from time to time, although I certainly applaud her intentions. Similarly, the Shakespeare aphorisms that the father regularly spouts - "communicating his deepest feelings in the words of a man who has been dead for almost four hundred years" -- sometimes come across as gimmicky.

Of course, the exploration of sisterhood is complicated, as these characters show. Ms. Brown writes, "We weren't going to talk about it, we weren't going to share any feelings or discuss any arrangements, not going to bond in any type of movie montage moment where emotional music swelled as we hugged and wept for our mother's loss and our own fear. Instead, we were going to wrap ourselves in cloaks woven from self-pity and victimhood, refusing to admit that we might be able to help each other if we'd only open up."

It's that "opening up" process that is mined within these pages. By the end of the book, there will be growth in each and every character, some predictable, some a surprise. There are many "weird sisters" out there who will recognize their own roles and their own family dynamics.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2011
I almost gave this book up in the middle, it just never really engaged me. I liked the overall premise of the story, but to me the character development was a bit flat, and I never really got to know the sisters. I did finish the book just because I was curious to see how the author ended it.
I didn't care for the tense the book was written in. I'm sure that there is a technical term for it, but it was confusing to me to have the narrator speak as one of the sisters, "our parents" for example, but then talk about each sister individually as a separate person describing what they were doing. I think that for me, that threw off the rhythm of the book, trying to figure out the voice of the narrator kept me from really connecting to the story.
Overall, an okay vacation read, but I probably won't read anything else by this author.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 2011
I had problems getting through this. First were the pretentious metaphors: ". . .the shadow of stubble on his face like the shadow of the leaves in the Shakespearean forest of Arden." Huh? There was a metaphor that assumed readers would know characters in The Great Gatsby. Then, when the Shakespearean-quoting father is telling his daughters that their mother has cancer, he breaks into long, obtuse quotes from the Bard. Are there people who recite literature as a way of telling children their mother is likely dying? It's hard to imagine. Since the father never spoke common English, he never came alive as real for me: only as a list of quotes.
The two younger daughters I found, frankly, creepy. Bean is a thief and adulterer driven by neither need nor passion, but by greed and boredom, and Cordy wanders aimlessly for years, showing up pregnant. Of course both are handed jobs immediately. Bean the thief is instated as the town librarian without any certification ("oh, you can get that down the line, dear").In these hard times, I know that sometimes small town politics give people outrageous advantages in skipping the employment queue, but I don't like to be reminded of it. Cordy falls into the arms of a Mr. Nice Guy who could care less that she is pregnant, not questioning for a split second anything about the situation, such as, since this woman never thinks things through, might that not affect their relationship? He even has the perfect apartment for her. It all works out too pat and perfectly to feel at all real.
Although the technique of using the 1st person plural to tell a third person narrative wasn't too hard to follow, it didn't enhance the plot, either, because, since the sisters weren't close and hadn't lived near each other as "adults," why give them a universal "we" as if they were deeply bonded?
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on January 20, 2011
Three sisters, three different outlooks on life, three different opinions about working, three different attitudes concerning just about everything, but they all had the same reason for coming home.....their mother needed help because of her breast cancer.

Rose was the practical, organized sister, Bean was the attorney turned thief, and Cordy was still the spoiled child she always was. They all had some secret or concern as they returned to their childhood home.

Their childhood home was one of love, of books, and Shakespearean quotes....the entire family quoted Shakespeare as they spoke and thought nothing of doing so. None of the girls was ever without a book in her hands.

Just as in childhood, the adult lives of each sister went opposite ways in terms of interest and responsibility, but their love and concern for each other was evident. The emotions of the characters and the descriptions of situations especially during childhood flashbacks was perfectly depicted allowing the reader to experience the hominess of small town connections and the nostalgia of coming back to your roots. You will enjoy each sister for her strengths and shortcomings, and you will admire their parents for their love of each other and for the love of reading they instilled in their daughters.

I really enjoyed this book...if you have sisters, you will cherish it and you will most likely be comparing these characters to see which sister you are!! If you don't have sisters, the bond between all the characters will "warm your heart" and have you thinking about your own family and sibling relationships. 5/5

P. S. The Three Witches or Weird Sisters are characters in William Shakespeare's play Macbeth (c. 1603-1607)...information taken from Wikipedia.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2011
I have never written an Amazon review before, despite being tempted on numerous occasions. Someone always seems to have done it better, and the same holds true for this book. However, if I can do even a little bit to promote this book, I want to do so.
I have no sisters, but this book spoke to me in ways I could not have imagined. The characters are both stereotypical and utterly original and authentic. I downloaded the sample chapters on my Kindle and bought the book as soon as I finished them.
As it happens, I do love Shakespeare, but that awareness is not necessary to love this book. We all know the aching promise of unexplored horizons, the bitter-sweet awareness of opportunities lost, and the fragile but sometimes annoying endurance of parental love. I have been, at times, all four of these women.
Buy this today; you will not regret it.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2011
I really liked the premise of this book. Three sisters (I also am one of three) who are representative of the Shakespearean characters for whom they are named. There is a bit of Greek tragedy to their stories that really made me want to like the book, but I just didn't. The characters are far too consistent and and persistent in living out their respective faults. They just lack nuance and truth. As another reviewer noted, the writing is also far too self-indulgent so that even when it is clever, it just falls flat. I had picked this up as a quick read for a long trip, but it has been painful to get through and I doubt that I shall finish it. I am perplexed as to why so many people enjoyed this book!
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2011
I too am the oldest in a trio of sisters. And, like Rose I'm the one who still follows my husband around carrying bookmarks to wave at him when he wants to leave a book open and face down on the first available surface.

I won this book in a drawing and hope to see more of Eleanor Brown's work. She has a magical way of putting words together. I was drawn in immediately with the unusual title, then the story itself held me enthralled until the end. This was not your typical all-American family, but somehow they managed to survive the trials they brought on themselves and came out better people for having done so.

If you're looking for a wonderful read, try The Weird Sisters.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 12, 2011
After reading many rave reviews of this book, I decided to try it for myself; unfortunately, I was not as impressed.

The Weird Sisters are Rosalind (Rose), Bianca (Bean), and Cordelia (Cordy) Andreas. Their father is emotionally distant and obsessed with Shakespeare, even insuring his daughters were named after women from Shakespeare's plays. When the going gets tough, Shakespeare becomes even more important to him. He teaches at the university in Ohio. The family still lives in the home where the sisters were raised. When the mother finds out she has breast cancer, the sisters return home, supposedly to support and care for her through her surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. However, the women also have their own issues, and reasons for returning to their small hometown.

Each of the sisters bugged me in some way. Bianca was so self-involved, manipulative and annoying throughout most of the story; a constant complainer. Her need to project some sort of an image even caused her to embezzle from her employer. Cordelia was a free spirit who dropped out of college and traveled from place to place, and had a number of men in her life. Rose, is controlling. She was the responsible one who took it upon herself to be the caregiver, and even as a child seemed to take on more of a mother-role to the family. She sacrifices her own dreams as a result. Without going into details, throughout the novel things happen, and through a process of self discovery the sisters change, and the support of family is what helps them through all their life struggles.

There is a lot going on in the story: cancer, pregnancy, embezzlement, love and much dysfunction. What I did not like about this story was constant quotes from Shakespeare; it really got on my nerves after a while. I also thought the writing fell flat at times, parts of the story were conveniently contrived, and the ending seemed too rushed (although I was anxious for the book to end). I found the writing style, first person plural, a style rarely used, was tough to get use to but it was clever and effective conveying the viewpoint of all of the sisters. I truly understand I am in the minority here, but this is one book that I will not be encouraging others to read.
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