Rose, Bianca, and Cordelia Andreas are the daughters of a Shakespeare scholar who is obsessed with the Bard. From their earliest days they were taught to quote from Shakespeare plays, enact scenes, and use Elizabethan curses. Of course, they are named for characters from the plays. Their father’s way of communicating with them when they are away is to send them clippings from the Riverside Shakespeare. This is the setup for The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown. You might think such a gimmick would become tiresome, but it does not.
The three sisters have traits in common with their characters. Rose, like Rosalind, is smart and dutiful. Bianca is a flirtacious beauty. Cordelia is the much-loved youngest daughter. They are also a bit estranged from each other. Rose resents that she always has to be the responsible one, but Bean and Cordy think she takes too much upon herself. Both Rose and Bean are jealous of the unconditional love that Cordy receives from their parents. And Rose and Cordy think Bean has too great a need for attention, one that leads her to seduce men indiscriminantly.
When they receive a summons from their father because their mother has cancer (it says “Come, let us go; and pray to all the gods/For our beloved mother in her pains”), the lives of all the women are in disarray. Rose’s fiancé is about to leave for a job in England, and he wants her to join him. She believes she is too urgently needed at home, where she is the organizer. Bean (Bianca) has been fired from her job in New York for embezzling the money she needs to perpetuate her lifestyle. Cordy has been living from man to man like a vagabond when she finds she is pregnant.
They all return to their crazy, poorly run childhood home, where piles of books are everywhere and all members of the family are perpetually reading but not, perhaps, cleaning. Slowly, the small town in Ohio that Cordy and Bean have been running away from begins to seem not so bad.
The Weird Sisters is an amusing, touching novel about how each of the women finds her path and reconciles with her sisters. It is extremely well written, and oddly enough, you do not tire of its devices.