Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Weird Sisters – Eleanor Brown

I loved this novel.  I guess one would classify it as “chick lit” (if one were particularly condescending) in that it centers on a trio of sisters as they return home to care for their ailing mother.  But it is smart, and funny, and warm, and while it isn’t the most earth-shattering tome you’ve ever beheld, it is just a Good Book.  I’m so glad I read this book now.  Lately I’ve been reading some mindless drivel (thank God that’s over, (uh…kind of)), and some terribly boring stuff (The Tiger’s Wife, Oprah?  Are you high?), and a bunch of stuff to my kids (the Who Was? series in particular, more on that later), and it was nice to be simply entertained by a book.  Put The Weird Sisters on your summer reading list; it’s the perfect “beach” read – not too heavy, but well-thought-out and completely absorbing.

The Weird Sisters was particularly poignant to me because lately I’ve been thinking about women, and sisters, a lot.  I don’t have sisters.  I have a lovely step-sister (who is rather recent; we didn’t grow up together) and several wonderful sisters-in-law, but no actual blood-related, room-and-hand-me-down-clothes-sharing, fighting-over-the-hairbrush-and-princess-phone sisters.*  My family and Mike’s family both run heavy on the Y chromosome.  So the sister relationship is sort of fascinating to me – like, in an anthropological sense.  And though I’m not a sister, I am wholeheartedly a “girl’s girl.”  I have lots of close girlfriends.  I have never been that girl who has “more guy friends than girl friends” or who feels more comfortable hanging out with the boys.  (In fact, men rather intimidate me.)  But the sister relationship is different.  I watch sisters interacting like a kind of voyeur, so reading a novel about them is always fun.    

My friend Kristina, the oldest of three sisters and two step-sisters, once described the sister relationship as follows:  “We can be having a huge screaming fight, and stomp off to opposite sides of the house, but then five minutes later ask the other, ‘Hey – you wanna go to the movies?’”  This completely mystifies me – the fight as well as the forgetting of it.  When you grow up with brothers, fights are just different.  Less emotional, maybe.  Less fraught.  Definitely less often, I think.  Something like that.  AND we wouldn’t want to see the same movies, anyway, so that whole episode could never even remotely happen.  Instead we’d just yell and then totally ignore each other, never bothering to apologize or make up, but instead just waiting for the storm to blow past.  Possibly because I didn’t want to borrow their shoes.

But I have a theory about female friendship, so tell me what you think.  I have noticed that many women who have sisters become childhood best friends with other women with sisters.  On the flip of that, sisterless (or sisterfree?  Is that glass half-full or half-empty?) women become childhood best friends with other sisterless women.  Of the women I’ve informally polled about this over glasses of wine, I’ve noticed this to be surprisingly widespread.  I don’t think this happens as much once women are older; I’m talking specifically about the close female friendships that begin in childhood and last throughout a woman’s life.  Have you noticed this?  If so, what do you think the reason for it is?  Do you think that it is possible that sister’ed women have slightly different needs than sister-less women in their early, close female friendships?  Like, those of us without sisters are always on the prowl for maid-of-honor potential, since our genetic pool didn’t handily provide us one?

In a different vein, another thing I appreciated about The Weird Sisters was its presentation of the act of reading as solace.  Regarding the processing of tragedy, the narrator remarks, “we’d do what we always did, the only thing we’d ever been dependably stellar at:  we’d read.”  For me, this resonates.  When in the throes of postpartum depression, I remember sitting at my breast pump, reading.  Because if I wasn’t reading, I was crying.  Or dialing hotlines.  (It was bad, y’all.)  I remember reading all the Emily Giffin books in about three days after Owen was born – and what a gift those were, not because they are especially ground-breaking, but because they provided escape.  Ten years ago, when my mother was dying, we kept a round-the-clock vigil, in which one of us (either my dad, one of my brothers, my aunt, my grandmother, any one of my mother’s best friends – she was a “girl’s girl” too – or myself) would sit next to her bed, just to be with her.  Just to be present.  And during my time watching over her, I read.  I probably read a novel a day, because it was the only way I could leave my thoughts and my grief and my problems and my misery behind.  Strikingly, it was my mother who taught me to be a reader, and I think she would’ve been happy that her gift could comfort me when she could not.  Anyway, reading – and fiction, particularly – has always been therapeutic for me.

So, that’s what I’ve been thinking about with this book.  I’d love to know your thoughts, lovely reader (whether you’ve read the book or not).

*Remember those phones?  I had a lavender one (fabulousness!).  (God, I’m OLD.)


  1. Ooohhh, I have a lot to say about this!! YAY!!

    1. First of your blog posts to make me cry!
    "Strikingly, it was my mother who taught me to be a reader, and I think she would’ve been happy that her gift could comfort me when she could not." Sniff, sniff...

    2. Genius. I, obviously, have no sisters. Running down my list of BFF's - all sister-less. Even now for the most part. Huh? Never even thought about it like that.

    3. I had a Swatch phone - it was see through and you could talk on the handset AND the base at the same time. :) OLD!

    4. LOVE this blog post and can't wait to read it.

    1. Ummmm, not the blog post - I already read that. The book. I'm an idiot.....

    2. i know, silly! totally knew what you meant. and thanks for all the cool comments. i'm so jealous of your swatch phone. i had several swatch watches, that i wore ALL AT THE SAME TIME. who's the badass, now?

      (also, isn't that CRAZY about the sister thing? i was thinking of you & hillary too on this one!)

  2. great post. made me teary too.

    Sister thing - I had best friends who were both sisterless and had sisters, but it is interesting to think about whether we look for different things. Some of the sisterless ones are the ones I've stayed closest too through the years, but other sisterless ones I didn't stay close to, so who knows.

    Will you recommend this book to book group as our summer read? It sounds great!

    1. yes, that's a great idea! will do.

  3. Can't wait to read this book! So, since I have sisters, one older "full", one half sister and one step, both younger..I know, I know. Anyway, the oldest one and I grew up in the same house. We could not be any more different. If we were not sisters, I am certain we would not be great friends. I have a good friend with a sister and one who is an only child. I tend to have less girl friends...that being said, women have much different relationships with each other then any others. We need to be with other women and braid each other's hair or hold hands and just act like the sisters that we always have wanted.

    1. i had forgotten you also had a stepsister! very interesting.