Sunday, January 15, 2012

Further Reading: "Sisters" in Fiction

Jane Austen launched the Bennet Sisters in Pride and Prejudice in 1813. Louisa May Alcott wrote the proverbial classic about the March sisters in Little Women in 1868.  Jane Smiley captured the love-hate  relationship of the Cook sisters in A Thousand Acres in 1991.  And Nettie and Celie, the sisters of The Color Purple by Alice Walker, released in 1982, will soon celebrate thirty years of literary significance.
Three debut novels, crafted with resonant prose, can now be added to the ever-growing canon of sororal literature:
In The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown, the Andreas sisters reunite at the family home in Ohio while their mother battles breast cancer.  In this contemporary family saga, the trio of disparate thirtyish sisters--each named for a Shakespearean character due to their father's affinity for the bard--are forced to face each other, their sibling intimacy/rivalry and the limitations of their lives in trying to find their places in the world. The story also addresses romantic complications, issues of mortality and the reversal of parent-child roles.
Familial sacrifice and sudden loss define The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen.  In this Wisconsin-set novel, Milly and Twiss, two spinster sisters in the twilight of their lives, spend the majority of their days caring for wounded birds - and people.  The two look back on life-changing events from a summer in 1947 when they were teenagers.  The story weaves seamlessly between the present and the past, when small moments from that one summer, and subsequent decisions made, dramatically altered the course of the sisters' existence.
A single, tragic event comes to define and filter through three generations of one Kentucky-based family in The Sisters, a multi-generational saga by Nancy Jensen.  Secrets, lies, betrayal and miscommunication set off a chain of events that irreparably estranges the teenaged Fischer sisters. The frayed bonds of family, and how misunderstandings can rob us of time spent with those we love, is at the heart of this deeply compelling narrative that winds through almost eighty years, from the Depression to WWII to Vietnam to the present. 
Each of these gracefully written novels delves into the complexities of love and human nature.  And whether the reader is a sister or not, the multi-layered plotlines and deft characterizations found in each of these stories continue to shed light into the ties that bind and also tear apart. 

Please note: This article is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this piece (in a slightly different form) as published on Shelf Awareness for Readers (1/10/12), link HERE