The Bird Sisters , by Rebecca Rasmussen. Publisher: Crown (April 12, 2011). Literary fiction. Hardcover, 304 pages.
After her father returned, wild-eyed and windblown, Twiss ran to him, but not as quickly as she could have. It was as if he had inadvertently told her something essential about himself, a secret she would have to keep forever: You can’t count on me.
In a small Wisconsin town, two sisters live together in the house in which they grew up. Townspeople refer to them as “the bird sisters” because they treat wounded birds and return them to the wild when healed. In 1947, as teenagers, Twiss and Milly envisioned different lives for themselves. Twiss wanted to be a golf champion and Milly expected to marry her crush.
Author Rebecca Rasmussen shows the sisters in present day and back as teenagers during the summer when everything unraveled. Twiss adored her father and wanted to be golfing with him every day. Milly developed a crush on Asa. It seemed like a wonderful match for her. A visit from their cousin Bett turned their insulated world upside down. The savvy Rasmussen creates this unique world which overflows with hopefulness and security, not sadness.
Her mother uncrossed her legs and then crossed them again. “Being a girl takes practice. You have to learn to do things boys never have to do.”
“Like what?” Twiss said.
“Like painting your fingernails,” her mother said. “Or holding your tongue.”
Completely different in nature—Twiss is tough and no nonsense and Milly is more sensitive—the sisters made the choice to forgo their dreams and remain faithful to each other. Neither one would ever be hurt, disappointed or alone. They find comfort and happiness through their sisterly devotion. The Bird Sisters is not about loss and regret. It’s about choice. This novel shines with charm and unpredictability. Author Rebecca Rasmussen writes a smart and compassionate story about how these two intriguing sisters end up alone but not lonely. Unmarried yet leading a completely fulfilling and satisfying life. Different can be a positive thing.
When I first glimpsed a press release perhaps describing The Bird Sisters as a story about two spinsters, I silently screamed inside. I feel that most people probably look at me, unmarried at 40, as a weirdo spinster and I just didn’t want to read a story that perpetrates society’s rules and expectations. There’s enough pressure on women as is. Instead, The Bird Sisters is genuine and wonderful.
Rebecca Rasmussen is on tour. Visit her web site for details.