I won a copy of The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen thanks to a Goodreads giveaway.
I had heard lots of good things about this book on Twitter and read lots of awesome reviews on Goodreads about this book and I must say in this case the book lives up to its hype….it was GREAT :).
The story follows the lives of two sisters who couldn’t be more opposite–Twiss and Milly. The sisters are spinsters who live in the same house that they grew up in and are now in their 70’s. We get a little background on them in the beginning of the story and then the story shifts and goes back to one summer that changed their lives forever when they were young girls.
The sisters parents are clearly having marital problems, Twiss struggles with some gender/identify issues and Milly with the uncertainty of a first love, and then as if that isn’t enough their older cousin Bett comes to stay with them for the summer which more or less causes all hell to break loose in their ‘perfect’ worlds. I don’t want to give too much about the story away but having Bett there causes both girls to lose their last bit of innocents and faith. The book is more or less about coming of age and innocents lost but it is also about forgiveness.
When you start reading the book it is clear that Milly and Twiss are both spinsters but this immediately leaves the reader wanting to know why. What happened? The story focuses more on the ‘why’ of the characters lives rather then the overall out come (the sisters ending up as spinsters). I LOVE that the story focuses on the why as so often in books the objective is the end result rather than the why.
One thing that really stood out for me in this book was the way Rasmussen articulated the depth of feeling for the two sisters. This book is really a character driven novel to say the least :). Even though the story begins with the sisters in their 70’s most of the story is set when they are in their early teens. I initially had my doubts about the level of feeling and reflection the characters could offer simply because of their young age however these concerns were quickly put to ease. Throughout most of the story, Milly seems much older and more mature which I think helped a lot…..wise beyond her years as they say :).
As a young teenager Milly falls in love with a neighbor boy named Asa and even though he returns her affection she does not end up with him which is her own choice. This was a decision which was so selfless and mature that under ‘normal circumstances’ it be would hard to believe coming from a teenager but the build up to the decision and the reasoning behind it showed such an adult understanding and based on the plot/events in the story it was entirely appropriate and logical.
Milly is the character who never complains and holds it together at all times–she is truly to ‘old stoic’ in her family. One quality that I loved in her was her ability not only to be the ‘rock’ in her family, but her ability to forgive and understand was so compelling and inspirational. Teenagers often have a weird way of holding on to things forever….holding grudges and being angry about things they cannot change seems to be a requirement from puberty on up.
One of lives most important lessons is forgiveness–so your parents are screwed up and were awful parents, forgive them for their short comings and move on–so you love your boyfriend/girlfriend but you don’t end up together, forgive them. This is what I loved the most about this story….here is a girl (Milly) that has every reason in the world to be upset about a ‘life that didn’t happen’ and how she got short changed on her ideal future/dreams….sure she could be an old bitter woman, but she isn’t–she learned how to let things go and move on. It was not easy for her and not without difficulty but somehow she found the strength within herself to do it with grace and maturity….yes time heals all wounds but Milly has a quality about her that is rare in a character. I think Milly is an exceptional character and a model for people of any age.
Comparatively, Milly’s sister Twiss is the family firecracker. In the book, Twiss is more of a wildcard….she is charismatic, energetic, and moody….in essence more ‘passionate’ than Milly. Twiss is everything that Milly isn’t which makes them a nice mirrored character study….together they make the perfect pair. Interestingly enough, Twiss struggles with many of the same issues that Milly does….she is upset about her parents marital problems, questioning her religious faith/values, and then trying to work through the pain of ‘first love’ (and in her case, only love) and sexuality/gender. Like Milly, Twiss deals with these issues in a different way than Milly but to more or less the same outcome.
I think the life long disappointments of the parents were a beautiful contrast to the sisters who learned to accept life and their disappointments. Falling into a pattern of resentment it easy….its harder and more challenging to forgive which is why this is such a compelling story that many people can identify with.
EVERYONE has something in their life that they are upset about….a dream that didn’t come true, a loss that shouldn’t have happened, a love that was lost….the one that got away….something….and learning to let go, forgive, and accept the way things turned out in life is hard yet compelling, we all want to know the secret to getting past it….I suppose strength and time maybe? Milly and Twiss make it possible whatever the secret is :).
This book is truly a beautiful, compelling story about acceptance and life that I think everyone should read. It isn’t a book that you rush through or read quickly, it is a book that should be savored and reflected on one line at a time. I highly recommend this book if you are looking for an in depth, reflective, character driven novel. It is really a beautiful story and not one that can easily be explained in a book review, you simply must read it for yourself :).
- Hardcover, 304 pages
- Published April 12th 2011 by Crown (first published April 1st 2011)
- ISBN 0307717968 (ISBN13: 9780307717962)
This book counts toward: NA
- Hosted by: NA
- Books for Challenge Completed: NA
Recommendation: 4 out of 5 (tragic but a great read!!)
Genre: Literature, Contempo fiction
Memorable lines/quotes: NA