Book of the Month: May

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Publication: January 20, 2011

Pages: 353

Rating: 4/5

Dysfunction and lack of identity are the common themes in this story. It takes place in the small, college town of Barnwell, Ohio and follows the three sisters- Rose, Bean and Cordy, through all their insecurities and past mistakes, as they question who they are and what there role in the family is really.  For Rose, she has lived there throughout her adult life and likes everything to be in its place, so she’s faced with a difficult decision after her husband gets a job opportunity in Oxford, England. Their mother has just been diagnosed with breast cancer, which only adds hesitation to Rose’s big decision. Unlike Rose, Bean and Cordy couldn’t leave their hometown fast enough. Bean, the wild child trendy middle child, jetted off to New York only to return after she’s been fired for embezzlement. Lastly, Cordy is the free-spirit, baby of the family who comes home when she’s finds out she’s pregnant. Neither want to stay in Barnwell, but they also know that they can’t return to the same ways from their old life.

When I first picked up this book, I wasn’t sure of the plot, but since I knew one of Brown’s other works and their was somewhat high praise for this one, I thought I’d give it a read.It’s a slow start, to be honest, and all the Shakespeare quotes can be a little overwhelming at first, but once I got a hang of the style, I thoroughly enjoyed the story.

The book also raises questions about how birth order affects our personality and heavily focuses on Bean’s journey to self identity, with Rose and Cordy as side characters. She has the most growing to do and also makes the most progress in the end, but is still flawed (aren’t we all?). Although the plot may have been subpar, Brown knows how to write characters.

Finally, the book is written in first person-plural, which was a bit confusing in the beginning, but made for an interesting read by the end. I still don’t know if I like it or not.

. . .

Goodreads summary: 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.