Summary from BN.com: 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.
Literary fiction is not a genre I normally read but I had heard so much buzz about this book that I had to give it a try. Plus I've gotten to meet the author in person so I was very excited to read this book. I will admit that if you have not normally read literary fiction, the book is a bit difficult to read. It can be hard to get into and sometimes you feel as if nothing is being resolved. However, I was very impressed with Rasmussen's words so the story was very pleasant to read.
I enjoy sister stories so I was intrigued with Milly and Twiss, who are different as sisters can be. The story has a frame of when the sisters are in their elderly years but returns back to when they were younger and a summer that changed them. I found the time shift a little difficult at times since it's not clearly marked but once I realized when and where I was things were fine.
I felt that any problems the family faced came down to the relationship between the parents. Sadly they didn't realize that their problems were affected the girls and both seemed rather oblivious to it. The sisters saw the relationship between their parents disintegrate and they seemed to get the cause of why it was all happening. When their cousin comes to town, both girls are fascinated by her but then come to realize that she is now the turning point in everyone's lives for both good and bad.
I did get annoyed with Twiss several times in the story. I don't know if it was because of her personality or how she acted but I felt like she was very childish at times even when she got older. I felt that she was one of the reasons why Milly ended up the way she did. I understand the bonds of sisters (being one myself) but I didn't really like how it felt like she was forced to stay that way. Also near the end when their mother is dying, I really hated Twiss's attitude towards her. I'm glad their mother realized the true feelings behind the words but personally I wanted to smack Twiss.
On the other hand, I felt very sorry for Milly. I felt her character had lived a sad life and gave up true love in order for others. Yes, I know that was her choice but it makes me sad because it felt like she thought she had to do it. Throughout the story, she's constantly teased and made fun of because she's pretty or because other people treat her differently. I got a sense that later on in life she's come to peace with her decision but there are still times where it must have still hurt very much.
Overall, I found myself enjoying the book very much. As it's literary fiction, I found myself reading it slower than other books but that was because I felt like I had to in order fully understand the story. As I said, those who normally don't read literary fiction might find it a bit hard to get into but I feel like if you make the effort you will enjoy the read. I really look forward to seeing what else Rasmussen has up her sleeve in the future.
The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen is published by Crown (2011)
This review copy was provided by the author