“I was sorry for me, too,” she said. “Neither of us was given what we were promised.” (The Bird Sisters, Rasmussen)
Last fall, the author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, Beth Hoffman, (yes, I’m name dropping!) recommended a lovely but bittersweet new book to me that she had read – The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen. I’m so pleased to have listened to her suggestion! I was fortunate enough to have received an Advanced Reading Copy and I also have had the pleasure of getting better acquainted with Rebecca via Twitter. I’m proud to be able to share my review of Rebecca’s debut novel with you. It’s a coming of age story about family, relationships, secrets, and the realization that when you trust someone you love, you might be disappointed: “…a secret she would have to keep forever: you can’t count on me.” (The Bird Sisters, Rasmussen)
Tucked away in the heart of the Midwest in the small town of Spring Green, Wisconsin, live two spinster sisters, Milly and Twiss, who have spent a life time growing old together in their childhood home. This is their story and reflections on how their lives evolved and what might have been. They pass their time caring for wounded birds and reminiscing about their youth. They have committed to memory specifically the summer of 1947 when a defining moment turned their world upside down which in all probability led them to lead their lives as spinsters. The story moves along effortlessly connecting the present day to the past and the astounding string of events that changed their family’s lives forever. Throughout the book Milly and Twiss think back on their youth and their parents’ troubled irreparable marriage which is emblazoned in their minds. Their father was the pride of the local country club until an unfortunate car accident changed him from a wonderful golf pro to a mediocre one. Due to his fall from grace at the country club he began an irreversible spiral.
I was extremely fond of both Milly and Twiss. They were sisters who were devoted to each other. They were like birds that flock and travel together to reach a safe haven. Milly and Twiss protected one another throughout the story. Twiss counted and depended on Milly because she was the older sister. Twiss was a plucky zealous young girl who always questioned everything. Milly was a hopeless romantic who believed in love. What she wanted most from life was to fall in love, marry, and have a family. These aspirations would give her life complete fulfillment and it was within her grasp. There was somewhat of a division between Milly and Twiss when it came to their mother. Their fondness and affection for her was somewhat split. There was, to some extent, a rift between Twiss and her mother in comparison to Milly’s relationship with her mother. When it came to their father though, Twiss was completely devoted and enamored with him. She held her father up on a pedestal.
While reading, The Bird Sisters, the narrative element of foreshadowing led me to anticipate something heartbreaking and foreboding would transpire later in the book. This key facet kept me on track to uncover what lay ahead for the central characters. I had to discover the secret that I knew was looming ahead as I neared the conclusion! Rasmussen gives hints to the reader throughout the story but I must say I was quite surprised by what eventually transpired! The aftermath of the events which follow changes the course of their lives — not only for Twiss, Milly, and their parents, but also for their cousin Bett. The summer of 1947 that changed and astounded their world came during Cousin Bett’s summer visit to their home. The entire family embraced Bett especially Twiss. To her she was a hero of sorts because Bett was fearless and Twiss was a young impressionable girl who looked up to her. Milly was Bett’s rival of sorts and their Mother cared for Bett like a daughter. By the time Bett came for the summer Milly and Twiss’ father was going through his own turmoil and separating himself somewhat from his family. There is a great deal more to impart on you — but I cannot spoil the book for you! I will leave you with this hook, Twiss tries to alter the outcome of her parents’ relationship or so she thinks by passing along a note to her mother from her father. “Twiss had stopped worrying about the secret ingredient for her tonic and started to think about what might come of her note, her mother’s wiggling toes, the belief in love.” (The Bird Sisters, Rasmussen) Maybe Twiss was just as much a hopeless romantic as her sister was…..
Congratulations Rebecca on your highly regarded and much anticipated debut novel! Thank you for writing such a quality story that is so rich and genuine. I can honestly say it is truly a literary work of art. Look for The Bird Sisters beginning Tuesday, April 12th 2011!
For there is no friend like a sister in calm or stormy weather; (Christina Rossetti)