Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Review: The Bird Sisters

Summary: 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. -- Crown

I have been so excited to read THE BIRD SISTERS. In some ways, it seems like I've been waiting forever for the release of this novel, and in other ways, I can't believe it's already here. I am just thrilled for the book's author, Rebecca Rasmussen, because she truly seems to be a special woman. She has a huge presence on many book blogs as well as twitter, and I already feel as if she is a friend.

So needless to say, I was a little bit worried when I sat down to read her debut novel because I really wanted to like it. I say "a little bit worried" because I had a feeling I was in for a treat. I had already seen some great praise for THE BIRD SISTERS including a starred review from Library Journal as well as blurbs from many of my favorite authors. And I am do happy to say that I couldn't agree more with the rave reviews. I loved THE BIRD SISTERS and thought Ms. Rasmussen's prose was exquisite. But it was the character development of Milly and Twiss, the bird sisters, that really brought this story to the next level for me.

Despite their differences, I found both Milly and Twiss to be extremely interesting characters; and I my heart went out to both of them. Milly was older and more proper (and definitely more responsible), and she dreamed of one day becoming a wife and mother. Twiss, on the other hand, was more of a tomboy. She flew by the seat of her pants and could be counted on to say something outrageous or controversial. Both girls were extremely close until their cousin Betts arrives for a visit. I'm not sure it was entirely Betts' fault, but some events occurred that summer that forever changed the girls' lives. Both Milly and Twiss' family structure was turned upside down and their dreams for the future were destroyed.

In addition to these interesting and complex characters, I thought the author did a wonderful job with the book's setting. The story takes place in Spring Green, Wisconsin; and I could tell that it was a place near and dear to Ms. Rasmussen's heart. The descriptions of this rural town were so vivid that I could perfectly picture the scenes on the farm and the golf course; and I felt as if the setting was so real that it almost became another character in this story.

Another thing about THE BIRD SISTERS that I appreciated was the way Ms. Rasmussen told this story. The book goes back and forth between chapters that take place in the present day and the summer of 1947. As I read this novel, I knew that something major happened during that summer that would deeply affect Milly and Twiss and their family's relationship, and I couldn't wait to learn what it was. I just loved how the story unfolded because I felt as if I were being teased with a few hints here and there, and I enjoyed tying together the past events with the present day ones.

At its heart, THE BIRD SISTERS is a beautiful story about sisterly love, and I absolutely can't rave enough about it. While parts of Milly and Twiss' stories did break my heart, I thought the overall messages of hope and healing were so powerful. I also deeply appreciated how Ms. Rasmussen used the theme of damaged birds, as well as the ability to heal, to symbolize much of what occurred in the sisters' lives. Trust me -- there are so many wonderful passages in this story that you will find yourself pausing and re-reading them because you just want to process the eloquent prose.

There is a fantastic website devoted to THE BIRD SISTERS that I highly recommend visiting. There is an interesting "Behind the Story" section where Ms. Rasmussen discusses her inspiration for the story (hint: it has to to with her grandmother and her childhood.) In addition, you can learn more about the author, including some of her favorite books; and you can also read a brief excerpt of the first chapter.

THE BIRD SISTERS is just the perfect book club selection, especially if your members are fans of literary fiction and/or character driven books. Not only is the story beautifully written, but the characters are so interesting. I am pretty sure that this novel will resonate with a great many readers because it touches upon so many universal themes. For example, your group might want to further discuss the importance of home, sisterly relationships, parent/child relationships, the past, love, heartbreak, money issues, disappointment, and sacrifices. I absolutely loved the reading guide because I thought the questions were especially pertinent to the messages in the novel.

I am so happy to say that I adored THE BIRD SISTERS. I treasured each and every page of this beautiful story and I loved how it touched my heart.

Stay tuned for more on THE BIRD SISTERS because I will be attending a Rebecca Rasmussen event at a local bookstore tomorrow evening! I can't wait!!!!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this novel.


Sandy Nawrot said...

There have got to be a couple dozen reviews of this book out on the blogs in the last couple days. What a blitz! Which makes my heart feel good that the blogs have embraced this author and supported her. I already feel like the last person to read it!

bermudaonion said...

I'm thrilled to see you loved it too, because I've been a little bit worried myself. I adore Rebecca and hope her book becomes a bestseller!

Rebecca Rasmussen said...

Thank you so much Julie for reading my book and for writing such a gorgeously written review. I completely understand that this is one of the perils of interacting with authors and in the last few weeks I have tried to bolster myself too, because honesty is so important in reviews (and I generally need to grow a thicker skin!)

Although I am so glad that I was able to read your review with pure joy this morning. XOXOXOX

Mary (Bookfan) said...

I think sometimes a book can reach out and capture one's heart - that's what The Bird Sisters did to me. I really liked it and I'm glad you did as well.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I'm so glad too that everyone loves this, because the author seems like such a wonderful person!

Laura at Library of Clean Reads said...

This is the first review I read of this book and I am so glad you loved it because I really want to read it. In addition, I think it will be a great book for my book club. Lucky you to be attending the author's event tomorrow evening!

Swapna said...

I agree with you about the character development - I was impressed.

Leslie (Under My Apple Tree) said...

Wonderful review. I too loved this book. I'm reading it slowly and savoring every word... I guess I don't want it to end; however, I'm almost out of chapters!

Anna said...

This sounds fabulous! I'm going to have to get my hands on a copy at some point.