Saturday, January 28, 2012

'The Bird Sisters'

A lot has been written about the newest literary novels.  Some say they are elegant, some say they are sensitive and uplifting.  I say that as long as the author doesn't use many big words, and doesn't go overboard with the adjectives, I'll be a happy reader.

Sometimes, too much goes too far.  I've found that paragraphs that run on and on tell me nothing.  Perhaps that's why I'm a fan of Hemingway.  The man used simple words, wrote concise sentences, yet wasn't afraid to wow us with a couple of well-placed adjectives.  In other words, the man didn't go overboard.  

I've searched for novels that are simple and well-written.  And, yes, elegant.  'The Bird Sisters', by Rebecca Rasmussen, is just that.  Of course, she's a great student of the 'Show, Don't Tell' school, and for that, I am grateful.  

The story begins in a very simple way:  Two elderly sisters, Twiss and Milly, live in the home in which they spent their childhoods.  They take care of birds that have been injured, and at the same time, care for the people who bring the birds to their door.  The story then falls back to the Summer of 1947, when the sisters were adolescents.  You learn what shaped their world, and what actually reinforced their devotion.  Their golf-pro father is hurt in an accident, their mother finally accepts the fact that the family will always have to struggle to survive.  But it is the appearance of cousin Bett that truly sets the ball rolling.  

Bett is unusual, and in that I mean you aren't really sure of her motives.  Will she use any means to escape her life back home?  Or is she just an innocent pawn?  And Twiss.  Twiss, the tomboy, the naturalist.  She is independent, yet hungry for attention.  Milly, the beauty, the one who has a chance at a better, more secure life.  What she eventually does will stun you.

The sisters are devoted to one another, and once you learn why they have stayed together through the years, you will understand the reason.

Yes, this is elegantly written, yet does maintain an edge.  Ms. Rasmussen gave me a chance to escape into other lives and actually feel empathy for each action her characters take. 

'The Bird Sisters' is worth your time, and I'm eager to read her second offering.  


Rebecca Rasmussen said...

Thank you so much for reading my book and for your lovely thoughts on it :) I love what you say about Hemingway...I strive for the simplest available sentence strategy in my work. I also love Marilynne Robinson for that reason.

Girl Parker said...

I just started reading "The Bird Sisters" and find myself thinking about it all the time - the characters and the beauty of the language. So good!!

Jacki said...

Rebecca, you've produced a beautifully realized novel! I wish you great success!