(Isn't this cover gorgeous?)
Title: The Bird Sisters
Author: Rebecca Rasmussen
Publication Year: 2011
Date Completed: 4/11/2011
Rating: 5/5 stars
"Whenever 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. The two sisters have spent their lives nursing people and birds back to health.".
Known to most, in the small town of Spring Green, Wisconsin, as "The Bird Sisters", life for these spinster sisters, destined them to always be together. As young girls, Milly, was a beautiful girl, who was in love with Asa; she dreamed of marriage and children. Twiss, was somewhat of a fun-loving, wild spirit who enjoyed her freedom. Life, as we know, does not always turn out as we planned, and for Milly and Twiss, the summer of 1947, when the sisters were teenagers, was the turning point in their lives that carved out what would be their future--- growing old together in their childhood home.
The story moves from present time back to that summer of 1947, and it is told in alternating chapters. The reader gets a glimpse into the sister's parents troubled marriage, their mother's frustrations and regrets, their father's downward fall from his job as a respected golf pro, and also what transpired the summer older cousin Bette came to visit. Bit by bit the reader understands the events that determined the course of their adult lives.
From the very beginning I was anxious to find out what happened that was so horrible to cause the lives of Milly and Twiss to turn out the way they did. The sister characters are so finely honed, so much so that I felt emotionally invested in them early on. Although their lives made me sad, I admired how devoted they were to one another. There is so much more that I could say, however, I want to be careful not to say too much. The Bird Sisters was a terrific debut novel. It's written in a style that worked well for me: a character driven novel with memorable but flawed characters, a story that hooks you early on and keeps you turning the pages, and just one of those stories that will keep me talking about this book for a long while.
In some ways this book made me think of (2) other books I read and loved as well over the last several years: Tomato Girl; Jane Pupek and Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt; Beth Hoffman. As with The Bird Sisters, these books left a lasting impression, each were debut novels, and each in their own way moved me deeply. Three MUST READS for your summer reading list.
I loved reading what the author says, inspired her to write this story -----
From the Author
I grew up in Spring Green, Wisconsin, but I also grew up in Northfield, Illinois--sadly, when I was a baby, my parents divorced. Because my life was split between the two places, I never really felt that either belonged to me and I still don't today. I suppose that's why in my fiction, I pay very close attention to place; I'm constantly searching for a way to make home feel like home. My stories tend to come out of the swollen look of a river, or an iced over fishing hole, or a bird on a winter branch. The idea for The Bird Sisters came out of two things: my curiosity about my grandmother and her family history, and my devotion to finding the answer to the ongoing question in my life: what does it mean to be home? For Milly and Twiss, I extended the question a little bit further: what does it mean to stay there? My grandmother Kathryn--Kit, she liked to be called--lost both of her parents when she was seventeen, her mother by way of Scarlett Fever (although the people who knew her best said she died of a broken heart) and her father by way of a broken leg and then a fatal blood clot. Her father, my great grandfather, was a wonderfully talented golfer who gave lessons to wealthy members of whatever golf course he was working at. Unfortunately, my great grandfather turned out to be a wonderfully talented philanderer, too. Those are the facts; what interests me is what came between them. My grandmother lived her life with questions about her parents that she couldn't bring herself to ask. "They were the best parents ever," she'd say one day, but then another she'd say, "I don't know if they really were." She carried a loneliness around inside of her that she couldn't bear to share with anyone because talking about what had happened made her more and more uncertain about whether or not she was loved. My grandmother had a sister named Virginia, whom she wrote a card to a few times a year and visited even less frequently. I've always wondered what might have happened if she and Virginia had been able to hold onto each other when everything else was slipping away from them. I've always wondered if my grandmother might have then found happiness in her life. Milly and Twiss are my gift to her, my proof of love. The book is a gift to myself, proof that I have a home in the hills of Spring Green, in the green of the rivergrass and the brown of the fields beyond. Writing the book, which I completed during my tenure in the MFA Program at the University of Massachusetts, has taught me that home doesn't always translate to four sturdy white walls. The Bird Sisters is my first novel.