Book review: ‘The Weird Sisters’ by Eleanor Brown

Daughters of a Shakespearean scholar, the three Andreas sisters grew up in the shadow of the Bard’s immortal words. Life in small town Ohio, close to their father’s teaching job at a local university, proved enough for Rose, the oldest Andreas daughter, but city lights and the promised thrum of activity called Bianca to New York City. Youngest sister Cordelia shed any sense of responsibility and made a “career” of traveling the country like a Kerouac hero, pausing only to sleep wherever she could lay her head. For years.

Everyone is called home, though, when the girls’ mother is diagnosed with cancer — and, as the narrators themselves tell us, they all return “because they were failures.” When the Andreas family is united to fight their mother’s illness, Rose, Bean and Cordy — living under the same roof for the first time in years — must get to know each other again . . . and help one another with the messy, complicated and occasionally heartbreaking messes their lives have become.

Eleanor Brown’s The Weird Sisters has been garnering rave reviews since its recent release, and I can definitely see why. Brown has crafted a trio of frustrating, lovable and realistic women who are fallible — just like all of us. Reading about Rose, Cordy and Bean offered me a glimpse of my own relationship with my sister, who is both a best friend and tough critic.

It’s hard to put my finger on what I loved about the book — but love it I did. The sense of place is incredible, drawing us right into Barnwell — or “Barny,” as the locals affectionately call it — and the rich atmosphere that is at once stifling and comforting. Bean arrives from New York having made some terrible choices, and it’s through returning to Barnwell that she begins to seek redemption. Cordy, too, comes home with a life-changing secret, and there were so many moments I really didn’t know what she was going to do. Or how to fix any of it.

But Brown doesn’t seek out easy answers. As the tagline on the book states, “See, we love each other. We just don’t happen to like each other very much.” I loved how apparent it was that the Andreas family deeply cared for one another, but it’s not realistic to think that they, like all families, don’t have problems. Facing their mother’s cancer changed everything about their dynamics and those with their parents, and I loved the complication of having three adult women — but still daughters themselves — reunited in the town two had hoped to leave behind.

It was easy to see shades of myself in all three ladies, but I related the most to Rose. As an oldest sister myself, her struggles with responsibility and duty versus choosing her own path rang very true. The youngest of three daughters herself, Brown clearly understands what it means to exist in a family that loves you so much that it almost . . . hinders you.

Though so much is happening in The Weird Sisters, no one theme seemed to overwhelm the others. We’re dealing cancer; theft; adultery; pregnancy; love. And family, glorious and difficult and real. Brown does a remarkable job of making us care deeply for the characters in her debut novel, and the many quotes and allusions to Shakespeare  enchanted me. Those without knowledge of the Bard shouldn’t worry about missing out on anything; they’re complementary to enjoying the novel, not mandatory.

Lovers of literary fiction, family dynamics and novels about sisters shouldn’t miss this one — a worthy and very readable story about love, connection and forging new identities.

4.5 out of 5!

ISBN: 0399157220 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for my honest review

Book review: ‘The Lunatic, The Lover, And The Poet’ by Myrlin Hermes

Ah, sweet obsession.

The things we do — and don’t do — for love. No one knows this better than Horatio, a divinity scholar struggling to compose a play for the Baron de Maricourt, a bumbly and oblivious man who keeps his most prized possession — his wife, the Lady Adriane — locked tight away. Not in a financial position to refuse, Horatio is commissioned to “translate” a romance into a full-blown play complete with music and song. Unlike her husband, Adriane is literate — and assists Horatio in the endeavor.

As he becomes more and more entrenched in the baron’s words and spends his time pulling sonnets and words like blood from a stone, Horatio happens upon Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, and finds himself most suddenly in the young prince’s good graces. What follows is a complicated and sexually-charged love triangle that finds Horatio torn between two unlikely lovers — and at odds with the written word, once his most cherished companion.

Myrlin A. Hermes’ The Lunatic, The Lover, And The Poet is a novel twist on William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and his many sonnets, written on Shakespeare’s mysterious “Dark Lady” and an androgynous young man. With deft prose and a wildly entertaining storyline, Hermes definitely manages to take much of what I knew about the Bard and turn it “topsy-turvy,” just as the cover boasts.

I’ve read reviews stating at least a working knowledge of Shakespeare’s Hamlet is required to enjoy the novel and while I can certainly understand where those readers coming from, I actually didn’t find my lack of knowledge to be too much of a disadvantage. I knew little of Hamlet beyond the famous “to be or not to be” spiel — and still found plenty to love in the novel. At several points, it became obvious that inside jokes and references to the original work were carefully woven into many pages — though I couldn’t fully appreciate them without being more comfortable with the original story.

Still, I can say honestly that once I sunk into The Lunatic, The Lover, And The Poet, it was difficult to put down. I’ll contribute my obsession with the story to Horatio’s obsession with Prince Hamlet; my interest was really piqued right around that point, too. The way that Hamlet is described makes it difficult to not fall a little in love with him, too, even with all his preening, selfishness and narcissism. And for all the gloom and seriousness embodied in Horatio’s character, Hermes’ writing was surprisingly light, fun and artful.

In fact, the writing was what I loved most about the story. Hermes finds a way to blend Shakespearean-like prose with modern terms in a way that’s shockingly not jarring — and actually made the tale feel more “modern,” though of course it’s set in Shakespeare’s day. For all his faults and silliness, I found myself oddly endeared to Horatio, the prince and Lady Adriane, even when I wanted to clock each of them on the side of the head for their foolish decisions.

Hermes captures feelings of uncertainty, joy, selfishness, obsession and jealousy with a truly creative and artful pen. Her novel is a treat for fans of historical fiction and, most especially, lovers of classic tales retold. Fans of Hamlet will definitely appreciate the book in a different way than the rest of us . . . but for the rest of us? A rollicking good time.

4 out of 5!

ISBN: 006180519X ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website

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Review copy provided by TLC Book Tours