The Weird Sisters

By Eleanor Brown
Publisher:Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, (1/20/2011)

Average Rating:
Very Unleashable
4.00 out of 5 (6 Clubie's ratings)

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A major new talent tackles the complicated terrain of sisters, the power of books, and the places we decide to call home.

There is no problem that a library card can't solve.

The Andreas family is one of readers. Their father, a renowned Shakespeare professor who speaks almost entirely in verse, has named his three daughters after famous Shakespearean women. When the sisters return to their childhood home, ostensibly to care for their ailing mother, but really to lick their wounds and bury their secrets, they are horrified to find the others there. 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.
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Alice_Wonder's thoughts on "The Weird Sisters"
updated on:4/15/2011

Very Unleashable

Steph's thoughts on "The Weird Sisters"
updated on:3/28/2011

I was absorbed in this book from the first page through the end.  Perhaps it was the setting in a small Midwestern town, which I can relate to.  Or being the first-born, like the oldest sister in the story, Rose (even though, my younger sister is quite frankly, "the responsible one").  Maybe it's because, like Bianca - the middle sister - I lived in New York and moved back to my home town and like Cordelia, the youngest sister, was uncertain of the direction my life would take at that point.  Enough about me though.  This beautifully-written book gently meanders through the past and present lives of the Andreas sisters who have all found themselves living together in their childhood home with their parents. While their familial bond may have been strained at times, there is no question that a love of books has been an unwavering presence and connection throughout their lives.  The refreshing absence of technology lent a timelessness to the Weird Sisters that was reinforced by the ever-relevant Shakespearean references, courtesy of the Andreas patriarch's life-long commitment as a Shakespearean scholar and professor.  I wish I could borrow some of author Eleanor Brown's elegance and easiness with words right now to explain how much I enjoyed this book.  Perhaps I will just leave it at, "all's well that ends well."    

Very Unleashable

Ceci's thoughts on "The Weird Sisters"
updated on:3/1/2011

Chick lit for the English lit crowd. An entertaining read with eccentric characters that generally manage to charm rather than annoy. The sisters’ stories are predictable, but still satisfying. I’m not sure all the Shakespearean bits were entirely necessary. If so, their import often passed me by, and I felt gratified that the sisters, too, admitted they often did not understand what their father meant with his Shakespeare quotes. It is the sisters’ voices, separately, and sometimes grouped together into a single narrative “we” that really gives the book a distinctive spark. Here is the complexity of sisters in a nutshell – each completely (sometimes infuriatingly) different, but with a common family history that inescapably binds them together.

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Nick's thoughts on "The Weird Sisters"
updated on:3/1/2011

A year or two ago, Time magazine published an article that discussed a new study theorizing that siblings actually have more influence on a person's development and upbringing than parents do. As one who grew up with two sisters and two brothers, I can not only attest this to be true, I'm a little surprised it took behavior scientists and psychologists that long to figure it out.

The Weird Sisters runs with this premise and does it with real grace and skill. I admit I was a little skeptical at the start because there seemed to be many opportunities for the book to veer into the realm of cliché. The three sisters themselves are introduced as archetypes: there is the oldest, Rose. She is the smart, overly-responsible mother hen. Next is Bianca, or "Bean," the beautiful, vain, ambitious one who couldn't wait to leave home for the adventure of New York City. And then there is Cordelia, the youngest and a Kerouac-style wandering free spirit. Throw in literary parents and a professor father who constantly quotes Shakespeare and this novel had all the makings of a cartoon.

But the pleasant surprise is that it isn't a cartoon. The author, Eleanor Brown, not only makes these characters real, she makes the reader really care about them and pulls you into the trials of a family hitting lots of tough patches all at once. It would have been easy to make this melodrama, but instead it's very real, human and an immensely enjoyable read. The reader feels each of the characters grow as individuals and as a family unit. Brown uses the unique literary device of using the narration in a first person "we" perspective, as if the three sisters are one entity, telling the story. And indeed they are.

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Book Junky's thoughts on "The Weird Sisters"
updated on:3/1/2011

I just about squealed with delight when I started reading this book. I could not identify why, but as the story continued it became clear - good writing. And the author threw in a twist by writing the narrative voice as all three of the sister's thoughts mushed into one collective- Very interesting. It creating almost a fourth observing character. I loved that. I loved the little Shakespearian thoughts used to convey what each was thinking. The store lines were good, not can't put down interesting though. But it really did not matter, I still enjoyed reading it.  And in that "Sex and the City" style, "Barney" became as much of a character here as NY did in SATC. Which made me totally fall in love with Barnwell and want to move there and make friends with each of these lovable characters. Great writing with lots to discuss. I think it is a book club winner.

Very Unleashable

Silver's Reviews's thoughts on "The Weird Sisters"
updated on:12/30/2010

Three sisters, three different outlooks on life, three different opinions about working, three different attitudes concerning just about everything, but they all had the same reason for coming home.....their mother needed help because of her breast cancer.

Rose was the practical, organized sister, Bean was the attorney turned thief, and Cordy was still the spoiled child she always was. They all had some secret or concern as they returned to their childhood home.

Their childhood home was one of love, of books, and Shakespearean quotes....the entire family quoted Shakespeare as they spoke and thought nothing of doing so. None of the girls was ever without a book in her hands.

Just as in childhood, the adult lives of each sister went opposite ways in terms of interest and responsibility, but their love and concern for each other was evident. The emotions of the characters and the descriptions of situations especially during childhood flashbacks was perfectly depicted allowing the reader to experience the hominess of small town connections and the nostalgia of coming back to your roots.

You will enjoy each sister for her strengths and shortcomings, and you will admire their parents for their love of each other and for the love of reading they instilled in their daughters.

I really enjoyed this book...if you have sisters, you will cherish it and you will most likely be comparing these characters to see which sister you are!! If you don't have sisters, the bond between all the characters will "warm your heart" and have you thinking about your own family and sibling relationships. 5/5

P. S. The Three Witches or Weird Sisters are characters in William Shakespeare's play Macbeth (c. 1603–1607)...information taken from Wikipedia.


"The Weird Sisters"
By Eleanor Brown

Average Rating:
Very Unleashable
4.00 out of 5 (6 Clubie's ratings)

The Gentleman
The Gentleman
By Forrest Leo

 General reading guide discussion questions to be used with ANY book your book club or reading group might be discussing.

The Shakespearian Influence

The Andreas family is dedicated to books, particularly Shakespeare. Would the family be different if their father were an expert on a different writer? Edgar Allan Poe, let's say, or Mark Twain? What if they were a family of musicians or athletes, rather than readers? How might that change their dynamic? Is there an interest that unites your family in the same way that reading unites the Andreas family?


The narration is omniscient first person plural ("we" rather than "I"). Why do you think the author chose to write the novel in this way? Did you like it?

Play Favorites

Which sister is your favorite? Why? Which sister do you most identify with? Are they the same character?

Sibling Relationships

Do you have any siblings? If so, in what way is your relationship with them similar to the relationship among the Andreas sisters? In what way is it different?

What Makes Us an Adult?

Each of the sisters has a feeling of failure about where she is in her life and an uncertainty about her position as a grown-up. Are there certain markers that make you an adult, and if so, what are they?

Problems of Their Own Making

In what ways are the sisters' problems of their own making? Does this make them more or less sympathetic?

Influence of Religion

The narrator says that God was always there if the family needed him, "kind of like an extra tube of toothpaste under the sink." Is that true, or does the family's religion have a larger effect on the sisters than they claim? How does your own family's faith, or lack thereof, influence you?

Birth Order

In many ways, the Andreas sisters' personalities align with proposed birth-order roles: Rose, the driven caregiver; Bean, the rebellious pragmatist; and Cordy, the free-spirited performer. How important do you think birth order is? Do you see those traits in your own family or in people you know?

Self Identity

Father Aidan tells Bean, "Your story, Bean, is the story of your sisters. And it is past time, I think, for you to stop telling that particular story, and tell the story of yourself. Stop defining yourself in terms of them. You don't just have to exist in the empty spaces they leave." Do you agree with Father Aidan? Is it possible to identify one's self not in relationship to one's siblings or family?

Irresponsible Baby

Is it irresponsible of Cordy to keep her baby?

Mother's Illness

How does the Andreas family deal with the mother's illness? How would your family have coped differently?

Parent's Love Story

The sisters say that "We have always wondered why there is not more research done on the children of happy marriages." How does their parents' love story affect the sisters? How did your own parents' relationship affect you?

Dad? Mom?

What do you think of the sisters' father, James? Is he a good parent? What about their mother?

Mom's name...

Why do you think the mother is never given a name?

Leaving Home 

The narrators' mother admits that she ended up with the girls' father because she was scared to venture out into the world. Yet she doesn't seem to have any regrets. Do you think there are people who are just not meant to leave home or their comfort zone?

Childhood Perceptions

Bean and Cordy initially want to leave Barnwell behind, yet they remain, while Rose is the one off living in Europe. Do you think people sometimes become constrained by childhood perceptions of themselves and how their lives will be? How is your own life different from the way you thought it would turn out?

The Weird Sisters

When you first saw the title, The Weird Sisters, what did you think the book would be about? What do you think the title really means?

Clubie Submitted Discussion Questions
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Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, January 2011The Weird Sisters in Eleanor Brown's delightful debut could have been weirder, considering their upbringing. Their professor father spoke primarily in Shakespearean verse, and while other kids in the bucolic Midwestern college town of Barnwell checked the TV lineup, the Andreas girls lined up their library books. They buried themselves in books so completely that while they loved each other, they never learned to like each other much. And when adulthood arrived and they pursued separate destinies, each felt out of step with the world. When news of their mother's cancer makes a terribly convenient excuse for attention-hog Bean (Bianca) and Cordy (Cordelia), the “baby” who always got off easy, to boomerang back to Barnwell from New York and New Mexico, respectively, they return bearing the guilt (and consequences) of embezzlement and pregnancy-by-random-painter. They're most terrified of admitting these failures to Rose (Rosalind), the responsible eldest, who stayed in Barnwell to teach Math and cling to her caretaker-martyr role. With lively dialogue and witty collective narration, the sisters' untangling of their identities and relationships feels honest and wise, and the questions they raise about how we carry our childhood roles into our adult lives will resonate with all readers, especially those with their own weird sisters. --Mari Malcolm

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. You don't have to have a sister or be a fan of the Bard to love Brown's bright, literate debut, but it wouldn't hurt. Sisters Rose (Rosalind; As You Like It), Bean (Bianca; The Taming of the Shrew), and Cordy (Cordelia; King Lear)--the book-loving, Shakespeare-quoting, and wonderfully screwed-up spawn of Bard scholar Dr. James Andreas--end up under one roof again in Barnwell, Ohio, the college town where they were raised, to help their breast cancer–stricken mom. The real reasons they've trudged home, however, are far less straightforward: vagabond and youngest sib Cordy is pregnant with nowhere to go; man-eater Bean ran into big trouble in New York for embezzlement, and eldest sister Rose can't venture beyond the "mental circle with Barnwell at the center of it." For these pains-in-the-soul, the sisters have to learn to trust love--of themselves, of each other--to find their way home again. The supporting cast--removed, erudite dad; ailing mom; a crew of locals; Rose's long-suffering fiancé--is a punchy delight, but the stage clearly belongs to the sisters; Macbeth's witches would be proud of the toil and trouble they stir up. (Jan.) 
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Three sisters, a scholarly father who breaks into iambic pentameter, and an absentminded but loving mother who brought the girls up in rural Ohio may sound like an idyllic family; however, when Rosalind, Bianca, and Cordelia return home—ostensibly to help their parents through their mother’s cancer treatment—readers begin to see a whole different family. A prologue introduces characters and hints of the dramas to come, while the omniscient narrator, seemingly the combined consciousness of the sisters, chronicles in the first-person plural events that occur during the heavy Ohio summer and end in the epilogue, which describes an (overly?) hopeful resolution. Brown writes with authority and affection both for her characters and the family hometown of Barnwell, a place that almost becomes another character in the story. A skillful use of flashback shows the characters developing and evolving as well as establishing the origins of family myth and specific personality traits. There are no false steps in this debut novel: the humor, lyricism, and realism characterizing this lovely book will appeal to fans of good modern fiction as well as stories of family and of the Midwest. --Ellen Loughran

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Eleanor Brown's writing has been published in anthologies, magazines, and journals. She holds an M.A. in literature and lives in the Denver area.

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