Average. Average, average, average. I didn’t dislike this book. I didn’t like it. If the color beige could be a book, it’d be this book. This is the Muzak of books.
Three sisters return home to the small college town where their professor father and housewife mother live because their mother has cancer. Well, two return, one never left. Cordelia, the flighty hippie, unexpectedly pregnant, and Bianca, New York urbanite fired for embezzlement, show up with tails between their legs while Rose, the overbearing One Who Handles Things, resists the chance to move to England with her fiancee. And throughout the book they bump up against each other’s idiosyncracies, meet and interact with various men about the small town, deal with their parents, and Learn Important Life Lessons.
The “quirky” bit is that their father’s an obsessive Shakespeare scholar who speaks to them in quotes from the Bard, as they also speak to each other. Um…yay? It doesn’t mean much to the story. It might just as well have been quotes from Poe or the Bible or the movie “Fight Club.” It’s all fairly unobjectionable until about the last thirty pages when suddenly the author erupts into paroxysms of cliche as each sister has Meaningful Realizations about herself which are exhaustingly detailed in the internal monologue of the book. The parents are given little to no characterization and everyone else in the book are flat cookie cutouts, especially the men in the sisters’ lives, who all seem to be saints (except one). There’s nothing remotely “weird” about these sisters. Not even “slightly off.”
I gave this two and a half stars instead of two because of one thing: a unique point of view technique I’ve never seen before. The story is told in typical third-person-limited point of view (the most common one in modern fiction) but the point of view is multiple. It’s as if the book is told from the point of view of The Sisters, as a unit, and treats them all equally. The book talks about “our mother” or “our childhood” even while all three sisters are in camera. It’s interesting. Pity it wasn’t used in the service of a more interesting storyline. It did hold some local interest for me in that the fictional Barnwell College, in Barnwell, Ohio, is described as being an hour from Columbus (where I live). Not that anything unique about Columbus is mentioned. Rose is spoken of as teaching as Columbus University (which doesn’t exist).