Saturday, March 5th, 2011
The Short Take:
As a book lover myself, it’s hard not to like a book in which every character also loves books. But this family drama about three loving yet rivalrous sisters has much more to recommend it.
Start with the whimsy of a Shakespeare scholar naming his daughters Rosalind, Bianca, and Cordelia. Then give those three grown women some serious flaws along with individual crises they face just at the point their mother is fighting breast cancer. Bring them back together in their childhood home and you have the makings of the perfect family storm.
This book could have gone really sappy, ultra-cute, or melodramatic easily. But Brown neatly sidestepped all that in her debut novel. The three sisters are each unique characters and nicely defined. They love each other, but there’s not a lot of “like” in their relationships. Nor do any of them have much “like” for the life they’ve been living so far, either. They’re not just running to help their Mom, they’re trying to run away from themselves.
Unlike a lot of books in this general category, there’s nothing over the top here. Everyday problems and annoyances are enough to get under people’s skin and move the story forward. The dialogue, relationships, and characters all feel genuine. The small college town of Barnwell feels just as true — with all its limitations along with those familiar comforts.
You might think you can predict the ending, and you might even be partially right (I was largely wrong). But, right or wrong, the journey is still a delight.
A Little Plot:
Rosalind never wants to leave Barnwell, she likes being close to her parents and her nice, ordered life. But her beloved fiance has a major opportunity at Oxford and wants her to come to England with him. Meanwhile, Bianca is living the fast life in New York City, picking up men and expensive designer clothes but paying for it all with embezzled funds. Cordelia has been living a drifter’s life, following rock bands and living hand to mouth when she discovers she is pregnant.
Their mother has cancer, which is the perfect excuse for each of them to move back home while they figure out what to do next. Their dilemmas and as well as their complex relationships provide plenty of fodder for a whole book — a whole book so engaging I could barely put it down for two days.
If you want to know about Eleanor Brown and her novel, just click here.