Title: The Bird Sisters
Author: Rebecca Rasmussen
Genre: Literary Fiction
About: (Back of the book) 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. 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. . .
My take: Rebecca Rasmussen’s debut novel is a delicate portrait of a family who find that life doesn’t always deliver what had been promised. The family consists of a mother who married beneath her parents’ expectations, a father who aspired to be accepted by people who never would, and the daughters who simply want their family to be the way they used to be. When cousin Bett arrives for the summer she seems intent on throwing everyone off balance – and she does.
The story is told in the present and the past. I was completely drawn into the novel and felt an ache for the sisters as they tried to fix their broken family, each other, and then the injured birds.
Rasmussen’s portrayal of the sisters in their later years is bittersweet and lovely:
Now that she was old, Twiss understood why people her age stopped speaking and started sitting on porches. Language failed to describe the simplest of phenomena; a fine sunset, for example, was more than fine. There were no words, or Twiss couldn’t find them anymore, for the way the colors made her feel. She’d say to Milly, “It’s an especially pretty one tonight,” when she meant that it reminded her of other sunsets, and years, and people who had nothing to do with sunsets: pinks and reds and blues.
“It is,” Milly would say. Or she might add a word like “lovely” or “otherworldly” and then Twiss would know that Milly, too, was thinking about something else entirely as they passed a glass of iced tea back and forth and gazed at the changing colors of the sky. (p.105)
Reading this novel was like looking at a painting and with each glance discovering something new in the deceptive simplicity of it all. The Bird Sisters is the story of hopes, dreams, sacrifice, and the love of two sisters.
Rating: 5/5 stars