The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (CBR6 #5)

Image

Obligatory Synopsis (via Goodreads)

 See, we love each other. We just don’t happen to like each other very much. But the sisters soon discover that everything they’ve been running from-one another, their small hometown, and themselves-might offer more than they ever expected.

I received The Weird Sisters as part of the Cannonball Read 5 Book Exchange in December. I am so glad that I did, because while this book has been on my To Read list since Cannonball Read IV I’m not sure when I would have gotten around to purchasing it for myself (my library system does not seem to have it available). The Weird Sisters is a difficult book to categorize; it’s a tale of family, of how sisters relate to each other, about fighting cancer, about making peace with your past, about relationships. And it’s also a tale woven through with Shakespearean allusions. Oh, and it’s written in the first person plural.

I’ve seen quite a few reviews which gave this book a relatively low rating based on the use of the first person plural and I’ll admit that it initially took some getting used to.  The use of the ‘we’ in the overall narration can drag a reader out of the narrative or just generally serve to confuse, until you catch on that its intended to be the omnipotent point of view. But I can understand how this might still turn someone off.

Once you do get the hang of it, the narrative weaves in and out of the points of view of the three Andreas sisters – Rosalind, Bianca, and Cordelia or Rose, Bean, and Cordy as they are known. In transferring between each the narrative backs up into the collective and more omnipotent points and understandings are imparted to the reader. Once I sunk into the device, I really enjoyed it as it afforded the reader a greater understanding than the sister’s had individually while still relying on what they would know if they were completely and perfectly honest with one another. And, simply, it was something different.

While following a pretty standard plot (three sisters return to the family roost to sort out their issues) I bumped the rating of this book up from a 3 to a 4 because I called at least one of the wrap-ups wrong, and I like to be wrong when it comes to calling a plot trope too early. The other main argument I’ve seen against The Weird Sisters is that it’s a retread of stock characters (Control Freak, Slut, Hippie) in a stock relationship setting (sisters). Which, I’ll give you and that keeps this book firmly in the 4 not 5 range.

So I vote read this, but flip through the first few pages and make sure you like the narration before purchasing.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.

Advertisements

Ordinary Days, Extraordinary Times: Morristown, New Jersey’s Irish immigrant Past (CBR6 #4)

 

 

Sometimes it’s tough to read a historical monograph and keep my own training out of the mix. I’m simultaneously a professional historian, and not. I do not hold advanced degrees in History, but I work at bringing history alive for visitors at my museum job. I spend the winter reading and researching various topics to prepare for the oncoming season of programs. This year my main research thrust is immigration and domestic servants. That led me to reading Ordinary Days, Extraordinary Times: Morristown New Jersey’s Irish Immigrant Past by Cheryl Turkington.

In her work Ms. Turkington covers approximately one hundred years of the Irish immigrant experience in Morristown. Morristown, if you aren’t familiar, is notable for being at the crossroads of the American Revolution and later for becoming a country escape for millionaires. There were 92 millionaires living in Morristown around the turn of the last century. Ms. Turkington generally turns from those two topics, and instead looks at what life looked like, and how the Irish neighborhood of ‘Dublin’ was born in this town.

While informative to me, Ordinary Days, Extraordinary Times, left me wanting. Perhaps I expect too much, but let’s start with what worked well: the quality and variety of information provided. Ms. Turkington, a staff member of the North Jersey History and Genealogy Center, conducted dozens of oral histories, scoured local records and couched the information in the larger context of the history of the Irish immigrant experience between 1840 and 1940. And she does so unflinchingly. The racism, the anti-Catholicism of the time are explored and place in historic perspective. I can appreciate it ever more so because it’s rare that a book or historian working in the Northeast to honestly explain the impact of institutions such as the Ku Klux Klan in our localities. Ms. Turkington brings this chapter of Morris County’s history to light.

Where Ms. Turkington loses me is in the style. Simultaneously she writes as if the reader is intimately familiar with the geography she is describing while also in cases using a lecturing style. In Ms. Turkington’s defense this book is only available for purchase at the library which published it (The Morristown and Morris Township Library) and it is natural for her to have written for a local audience. However, I feel she may have sold her research short by not aiming for a larger scope in the tone of the writing. In many ways I am her ideal audience being familiar with the area and its history, and interested to learn more and explore primary document research, I was also turned off because by the nature of being that audience, this work was written below my level.

Perhaps the most fun aspect of this work for me is the frequency of seeing familiar 19th century names from the area. It was in many cases like bumping into a friend on the street.

 

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.