The Andreas sisters were raised on books – their family motto might as well be, ‘There’s no problem a library card can’t solve.’ Their father, a renowned, eccentric professor of Shakespearean studies, named them after three of the Bard’s most famous characters: Rose (Rosalind – As You Like It), Bean (Bianca – The Taming of the Shrew), and Cordy (Cordelia – King Lear), but they have inherited those characters’ failures along with their strengths.
Now the sisters have returned home to the small college town where they grew up – partly because their mother is ill, but mostly because their lives are falling apart and they don’t know where to go next. Rose, a staid mathematics professor, has the chance to break away from her quiet life and join her devoted fiance in England, if she could only summon up the courage to do more than she’s thought she could. Bean left home as soon as she could, running to the glamour of New York City, only to come back ashamed of the person she has become. And Cordy, who has been wandering the country for years, has been brought back to earth with a resounding thud, realizing it’s finally time for her to grow up.
The sisters never thought they would find the answers to their problems in each other, but over the course of one long summer, they find that everything they’ve been running from – each other, their histories, and their small hometown – might offer more than they ever expected.
As I mentioned in the beginning, I adored this book. From the prologue, I was hooked and it was particularly because I am one of three sisters and I felt like this story was the story of our family (with a few differences along the way.) I saw so many similarities in the three sisters to me and my sisters, that it made reading this novel like reading something written about us.
Eleanor Brown does a fantastic job mirroring each sister according to the characteristics of their birth order, something that I strongly believe in. Older sisters tend to be orderly, and yes, judgmental, middle sisters are the starlets and have the shakiest path to adulthood, and the baby is just that...the baby. Throughout the novel you experience their individual and collective paths to understanding each other and the dynamics of their family.
There were two things about this novel that I did not anticipate loving, but very much made it a great read - the point of view and the Shakespearean quotes. The novel is written in first person plural, from each sister's point of view, but then there are many passages that are from the three of them together. Many instances of, "our father" and "we believed." I LOVED this about reading it, and I thought it was very interesting to weave each point of view in and out.
I am not a tried and true Shakespeare fan, but this novel has sparked an interest within me. Many times the father speaks in prose and uses quotes to answer questions, or give his daughters advice - I was much more interested in them than I thought I would be. I even went out to discover more about The Bard and bought a book recently about the love affair between he and Anne Hathaway. I am on a Shakespeare kick now, thanks to Eleanor Brown and this novel!
I HIGHLY recommend this story...it is a story much like most of us, and it shows the good and bad about being raised one of three girls. It very much demonstrates that we have to go through some challenges and difficulties, but it is how we handle them and learn from them that defines our true character. And I love a novel that can do that.
Read an excerpt HERE
Eleanor Brown's Website
20 Interesting Things About Shakespeare
My Favorite Quotes:
"But the truth is we had failed, and rather than let everyone 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."
"These were the kind you save, folded into a memory box, to be opened years later with fingers against crackling age, heart pounding with the sick desire to be possessed by a memory."
"I wish you could see yourself through my eyes...the vision is better."
"We didn't think Cordy would mind, really, because she tends to take things as they come. Rose minds, certainly, because she likes things to align with her mental image. Bean? Well it comes and goes with Bean."
"Our destiny is in the way we were born, in the way we were raised, in the sum of the three of us."
"No plan. No past. No future. She was at home, and of course Rose had to be here, too. She who might have been voted Most Likely to Judge You Harshly. Even Cordy, flaky as she was, might have been better. But Rose. Jeez."
"What if the name you had been given had already been lived in, had been inhabited so well, as a matter of fact, that its very mention brings to mind its original owner, and leaves your existence little more than an afterthought?"
"What did this mean for her? What do you do when you are no longer the one worth watching? When there are women less beautiful, less intelligent, less versed in the art of the game who nonetheless can beat you at it simply because of their birth date?"
"And yet we had inherited it anyway, in tiny drops, his obsession spread thin over the three of us. Rose's passion for order. Bean's for notice. Cordy's for meaning."
"There are times in our lives when we have to realize our past is precisely what it is, and we cannot change it. But we can change the story we tell ourselves about it, and by doing that, we can change the future."