This is a contemporary story of the Andreas Sisters, Rose (Rosalind), Bean (Bianca) and Cordy (Cordelia) who return home to bucolic Barnwell, Ohio, when they learn that their mother has cancer. Their father, Professor Jim Andreas of Barnwell College, is a famous Shakespeare authority, and he and his girls quote the Bard liberally. Frankly, Shakespeare-quoting characters don’t really interest me much and too much recitation of Shakespeare’s lines can become tedious, but in this story, Eleanor Brown hits the right note. Shakespeare’s words are a thread throughout the story, but it is the lives of the sisters that provide the meat, and they are talented, funny, annoying and tormented each in turn.
Rose, as eldest, fits the bill as first born — an over-achiever who is uber-responsible and seems to think it’s her job to take care of the family. The problem is that Rose, now a college math professor engaged to another professor, is almost paralyzed by fear of branching out, taking risks and trying new things. Rose must decide between staying with the familiar or going with her fiance to London where he has been offered a research position.
Bianca on the other hand, has dreamed since youth of leaving their boring college town for New York. Her goal in life has been to stand out, even if that means garnering negative attention for herself. Bean lives her dream life in New York for a while, wearing fine clothes, having drinks with investment bankers and so on, but she accomplishes this by embezzling from her employer. The note from her father about her mother’s illness comes at just the right time for Bean to get out of town and try to figure out how to fix the mess she has created.
Cordy was the first sister to leave Barnwell, having left before finishing her degree and hitting the road to follow hippie bands, live in flophouses, work sporadically, and ultimately, become pregnant, which she discovers shortly before getting word of her mother’s illness. Cordy struggles with the desire to live a free life on the road and the desire to keep her baby and be a good mother, which she understands requires a more stable lifestyle. While her reputation in the family is as the very loved but irresponsible baby, Cordy demonstrates a kindness and sensibility that proves this wrong.
What I like: the depiction of cancer and the way it ravages the body; the humor in the relationship among the sisters and with their parents; the presentation of internal struggles for each sister. While their faults are obvious, each is quite likable. Bean’s internal conflict is especially interesting as it involves financial and moral transgressions. Each has to be brave enough to challenge herself and leave the comfort zone in the end. And for the most part, all’s well that ends well in The Weird Sisters. Pure entertainment with Shakespeare sprinkles on top.