Love is timeless.
So, too, is heartbreak.
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.Read more...
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Love is timeless.
So, too, is heartbreak.
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.
But back in the summer of 1947, 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.
Rasmussen's heartbreaking yet hopeful debut novel chronicles the terrible toll of sacrifice and the incredible, redemptive power of life through the experiences of sisters Milly and Twiss.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2011-01-03
- Reviewer: Staff
Rasmussen's debut novel begins like a typical coming-of-age story, but reveals itself to be a singular portrayal of familial sacrifice and loss. As elderly women, sisters Twiss and Milly live alone in the house where they grew up in Spring Green, Wis. They spend their days tending to injured birds and roaming their land, lost in memories. For Milly, there is the constant reminder of what could have been. Twiss spent her childhood happily trailing behind their golf-pro father, but Milly dreamed about a family and children that never happened. There was hope for a young Milly, until an accident strips their father of his golfing abilities and sets in motion a series of events that rips apart the already unstable family. Dad retreats to the barn, and mom bemoans her choice to marry for love, leaving behind her wealthy family; a cousin who was thought to be a friend becomes an unexpected rival; and the sisters are left with only each other. As young women, and as old ones, they learn that their relationship is rewarding, but not without consequence. Achingly authentic and almost completely character driven, the story of the sisters depicts the endlessly binding ties of family. (Apr.)
What a mess we’ve made
Milly was 16 when Cousin Bettie came to visit, and things were never the same again. This might have been expected, since the whole family ricocheted off one another unpredictably, even before Bettie arrived. Still, the uneasy balance, however temporary, maintained by Milly’s weak father, Joseph, her difficult mother, Margaret, and her obsessively contrary younger sister, Twiss, receives a huge blow when Bettie enters the picture.
Or at least, so it seems on one particular day, when Millie, as an old woman, impulsively shares some existential doubts with visitors who don’t know her. Beginning and ending on that day, The Bird Sisters erratically reviews the lives of the sisters through the last half-century, as they create the world they now live in, for better or worse, where caring for injured birds is preferable to facing the broken shards of their past lives and the relationships that could have been.
On the whole, personalities rather than events control the action here. Milly, who always tries to do the right thing, is torn apart by the conflicting circumstances that being well-meaning creates. Twiss, who is indeed slightly twisted, salts wounds that might have healed in a less afflicted family. And Bettie? She is the troubled spirit who, with Joseph’s assistance, spins the family’s fate out of its dogged course into a future no one really wants.
This is one eccentric family, if eccentricity could ever be defined as a commonly shared characteristic. Sensitively written, and sometimes subliminally amusing, Rebecca Rasmussen’s debut novel will keep readers’ eyes open well into the night.