Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Review: The Bird Sisters

When a bird flies into a window in Spring Green, Wisconsin, sisters Milly and Twiss get a visit. Twiss listens to the birds' heartbeats, assessing what she can fix and what she can't, while Milly listens to the heartaches of the people who've brought them. These spinster sisters have spent their lives nursing people and birds back to health.

But back in the summer of 1947, Milly and Twiss knew nothing about trying to mend what had been accidentally broken. Milly was known as a great beauty with emerald eyes and Twiss was a brazen wild child who never wore a dress or did what she was told. That was the summer their golf pro father got into an accident that cost him both his swing and his charm, and their mother, the daughter of a wealthy jeweler, finally admitted their hardscrabble lives wouldn't change. It was the summer their priest, Father Rice, announced that God didn't exist and ran off to Mexico, and a boy named Asa finally caught Milly's eye. And, most unforgettably, it was the summer their cousin Bett came down from a town called Deadwater and changed the course of their lives forever.

Rebecca Rasmussen's masterfully written debut novel is full of hope and beauty, heartbreak and sacrifice, love and the power of sisterhood, and offers wonderful surprises at every turn.


I received this book from the publisher and was thrilled. Just reading the cover and looking at the beautiful cover art was enough to get my interest piqued. Reading it, I was just as enthralled. The Bird Sisters is a novel about hope, heartbreak and the true meaning of love and sacrifice. I was very interested to find out that the inspiration from this book was from Rebecca's own family. When her grandmother passed away, Rebecca received her journals. Forty years of her grandmother's life was laid out for her. She and her sister lost their parents at a very young age and each dealth with the tragedy in different ways. The journals helped Rebecca to flesh out the characters for The Bird Sisters.

Sisters Twiss (I love that name) and Milly are completely different but are each other's best friend. They are based on Rebecca's grandmother and her sister. The summer that Bett, their cousin, comes to visit from Deadwater will test their love, faith and the promises made and kept in the dark of the night. In this debut novel, author Rebecca Rasmussen weaves a clever tale that keeps you turning the pages until there are no more. It was a true delight and I will be looking forward with great anticipation anything that Rebecca writes in the future.

The cast of characters in this novel is very interesting. Sometimes, I honestly didn't know how to feel about them. At times I felt bad for them and at times angry enough to want to shake some sense into them.  Part of the theme of this book is promises and how they can be broken or not lived up to. I think that can be true in most relationships, but is especially seen in the relationship between Twiss and Milly's parents. The father was a professional golfer and the mother a daughter of a jeweler. Both had expectations of married life together that were never realized, and the disappointment permeates nearly every action of the characters. Add in Bett, the cousin. She came seeking refuge from her own troubled family and instead turned another family upside down. (Not saying any more! No spoilers!) 

Father Rice, the one legged priest was an interesting character. So was The Beetle. I find myself wondering if these were people that Rebecca's grandmother wrote about in her journal.

The most powerful relationship in the book was Twiss and Milly. If you have a sister, then you know it can be very much a love hate thing. Love in the sisterly bonds that can sometimes bind and strangle, but can ultimately save. In the book, Twiss and Milly learn who they can and can't rely on to support them. In many instances, it is a hard and very painful journey. Switching from present to past, the story moves artfully between the love and sacrifice that made the relationship between the sisters so great. It touches my heart that Rebecca could breathe such life into her characters. I feel like I know them.

I loved this book. Reading it over Easter weekend was perfect. It talks about hope, sacrifice and the ultimate meaning of love. Rebecca, this was a marvelous book, and a tribute to your family. I know they would be so very proud.

You can reach Rebecca on Facebook and her webpage: http://www.thebirdsisters.com/. She is an amazingly supportive person and will write you back. Rebecca lives in St. Louis, Missouri with her husband and daughter. She teaches writing and literature at Fontbonne University. She loves to bake pies and is training for a half-marathon in the fall. She loves all things old and antique. Hope chests and house dresses are a favorite. She continues trying to put up jam like her grandmother used to do, but loves her thermal windows and air conditioning.


Rebecca Rasmussen said...

What a gorgeous review, Dana! Thank you so much for reading and reviewing my book. All my love, Rebecca

Jenn said...

I am so glad that you loved the book as well. Great review!!