I was really intrigued when I heard about this book, so I pre-ordered it before the book came out. I have two sisters myself and all of us had the same excellent high school English teacher who taught Shakespeare with a passion. I know there was some variation from year to year in the plays that he covered, but I studied Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Othello, and the Merchant of Venice. All three of us are Shakespeare fans as a result.
The book is essentially about three sisters who are all at turning points in their lives. Rosalind, Bianca, and Cordelia are all named from Shakespeare plays, not a coincidence as their father teaches courses on the Bard at the local college. Their mother is a homemaker and both parents have a strong influence on the sisters.
I love the first paragraph of the book:
“We came home because we were failures. We couldn’t admit that, of course, not at first, not to ourselves, and certainly not to anyone else. We said we came home because our mother was ill, because we needed a break, a momentary pause before setting off for the Next Big Thing. But the truth was, we had failed, and rather than let anyone else know, we crafted careful excuses and alibis, and wrapped them around ourselves like a cloak to keep out the cold truth. The first stage: denial.”
It’s always nice to go home after failure, where people will love you whether you have failed or not. So, they go home to help their mother through her battle with cancer and to deal with their own failings the best they can. Each sister has her own storyline that’s interesting, but the character that fascinated me the most was their mother. I definitely wanted to hear more of her back story and learn why she was the way she was. I think she really was the silent star in the book.
The book is peppered with Shakespeare quotes, and for the most part, I enjoyed them and was familiar with them. However, it got to be too much even for me after a bit and started to become a little annoying. I also really didn’t like the two older sisters much, especially Bean (Bianca). Cordy was probably the only one that I enjoyed getting to know. Also, the plural narrator threw me for a loop at first, and I just really couldn’t get used to that format.
All in all, I enjoyed this book about three very different sisters, but I think I’m a little less enthusiastic than most about it. If you have even one sister or you enjoy Shakespeare you will probably appreciate it.
2011, 318 pp.