Review: The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Crown (April 12, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0307717968
Source: Publisher 

Milly and Twiss are two spinster sisters who live in the small Wisconsin town of Spring Green, Wisconsin. They are known by locals as “the bird sisters” due to their habit of rescuing injured birds.

As children, Twiss & Milly were happy, fun-loving sisters with ambition & hope, as many children do.  However, the summer of 1947 forever changes their future and their hope for happiness. Their cousin Bett arrives, staying with the family while her own goes through a tumultous situation.

The Bird Sisters is told in alternating chapters, facillating between the past & that telling summer of 1947.  The sisters didn’t have a perfect childhood, not by far.  Their parents’ marriage was a troubled one: their father was a former golf pro, unable to get over the fact that his perfect swing is forever gone; their mother has regret for the decisions she’s made. Their father loved golf more than anything, including their family, “their mother couldn’t forgive their father for wanting a lifestyle more than he wanted her.”

I wish I could simply tell you to run out and buy this book, that you should just trust my opinion without any backing.  Realizing that is unfair and probably unrealistic, I’ll go into greater detail as to why you must buy this book.

The characters, including Twiss, Milly, and their parents, are very much like the injured birds that the sisters rescue in their adulthood. They each lose hope, the motivation to try, to become something:

“Once a bird has lost his ability to fly, not much esle could be done in the way of mending him.  Losing a wing was a little like losing a leg and the freedom of movement, of spirit, it granted you; most people could live without the former but the latter.”

The reader knows early on the fate of the Bird Sisters. While reading, we journey back with the sisters and discover the path they take to reach this outcome.  The love of family is integral in this novel; the sisters could very well have lead successful and more fruitful lives if they parted ways. 

Milly selflessly sacrificed her future to save the fate of her family.  Twiss often thought about leaving her sister; she had hopes of seeing Machu Picchu and the Continental Divide.  But since Milly sacrificed so much that summer, she Twiss couldn’t possibly abandon her:

“She’d grow up with Milly and grow old with her, and then one day, if time had any kindness, she’d die with her.  Leaving Milly alone would’ve been like leaving an injured bird in the middle of the road.”

Twiss had her own share of issues as a child. She seemed to forever be in doubt of her parents love for her, of her place in this world. She constantly had battles with her mother, ending with Twiss spouting hurtful & painful words. As an adult, however, she eventually realized that the reason she and her mother butt heads so much was due to their similarities.

The Bird Sisters is a stunning debut; a book that can’t be rushed or skimmed through. To truly appreciate the characters, the story, you must savor this book.  It will make you cry out in both anger and sadness.  Several parts quite literally took my breath away, while others had me shouting expletives.  Take the time to get to know the Bird Sisters; I guarantee you won’t regret it. Highly, highly recommended.