Imagine two elderly sisters. One sister cares for injured birds, fixing their injuries if she can, wrapping them in an embroidered handkerchief for burial if she can't. The other sister provides fresh bakery and home made jam with a special listening ear for the person who brought the bird for treatment.
Now go back sixty years. Imagine the same sisters preparing for the fair and looking for methods to raise money. One sister creates a cure-all tonic and sales pitch worthy of the best snake-oil salesman, and the other sister goes a more traditional route by entering a cake-baking contest.
The two sisters are The Bird Sisters in a rural part of southern Wisconsin. Rasmussen's memory for the area is accurate and detailed, and her descriptions show the roads and yards and homes as they could exist. Many such towns do exists, with homes resembling the house where Milly & Twiss live. The setting is as important a character in the story as the people. - home and barn, long roads and small town, intimate church with steeple and bells - The interactions - person on person, person with place - create a complex and bittersweet story.
Milly and Twiss befriend their unusual cousin Bett, sent to visit by her mother while she straightens out her life. Bett initially provides a welcome distraction from their own parents' conflicts, but she is also the catalyst in a change that alters the directions of their lives. Milly and Twiss are nothing alike in appearance or personality, but Bett's summer changes them and brings them closer than they'd ever imagined - or cared to imagine.
The Bird Sisters is Rebecca Rasmussen's debut novel. Her narrative is smooth and engaging; her characters' dialogue is authentic and believable. This book was a page turner; I didn't want to put it down. I look forward to Rebecca's future works!
Crown Publishers (a division of Random House) provided me with a copy of The Bird Sisters with the agreement that I would participate in the book discussion on Goodreads.com with the author. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and the discussion. My copy will make the rounds of the readers in the family. I hope they enjoy it as much as I did.
Labels: So many books: So little time