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.

16 Comments to "Review: The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen"

  1. April 26, 2011 - 9:02 AM | Permalink

    I bought this last week and can’t wait to read it. I love when a book can stir the emotions of the reader. Great review!

  2. Rebecca Rasmussen's Gravatar Rebecca Rasmussen
    April 26, 2011 - 9:19 AM | Permalink

    Oh Jenn — my gosh — this is such a lovely review that really lifted me up this morning. Publishing is such a tough world, but readers like you make all of it so very worth it. Thank you for reading my book and for loving it. I really can’t wait to meet you at my reading in June. You are such a thoughtful reader and now friend.

  3. Kay's Gravatar Kay
    April 26, 2011 - 9:39 AM | Permalink

    Really looking forward to reading this book after all the wonderful reviews I’ve read. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  4. Anita's Gravatar Anita
    Twitter: anitalovesbooks
    April 26, 2011 - 9:47 AM | Permalink

    Jenn, I followed your link from twitter and so happy I did. I’ve heard so many great reviews of this book, I can’t wait to read it. If you are like me, I have so much on my TBR list….I want to read everything!!!
    Thank you for sharing a beautiful review. I look forward to following up with my own review, and seeing more of your reviews.

  5. April 26, 2011 - 10:08 AM | Permalink

    Wow, Jenn, that’s some review! THANK YOU!!

  6. Jennifer-Girls Gone Reading's Gravatar Jennifer-Girls Gone Reading
    Twitter: girlsgonereadin
    April 26, 2011 - 11:17 AM | Permalink

    I’m sold. I keep seeing great stuff about this novel, so I guess I just have to read it.

  7. Janet's Gravatar Janet
    Twitter: RaeOhio
    April 26, 2011 - 12:44 PM | Permalink

    Jenn, you described so well what I thought and felt reading this book. It is one to savor and it definitely evokes feelings. It’s a must read in my opinion.

  8. April 26, 2011 - 1:21 PM | Permalink

    I’ve heard such good things about this novel – it seems that everyone is talking about it and I’ve yet to hear a negative comment. This is a must-read, apparently! :)

  9. bermudaonion (Kathy)'s Gravatar bermudaonion (Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion
    April 26, 2011 - 7:30 PM | Permalink

    I’m so excited about this book I can hardly stand it. I’m so glad to see you loved it.

  10. Amused's Gravatar Amused
    Twitter: amusedbybooks
    April 26, 2011 - 11:10 PM | Permalink

    This book sounds amazing! I am really looking forward to reading this one now!

  11. Janet Rudolph's Gravatar Janet Rudolph
    Twitter: JanetRudolph
    April 26, 2011 - 11:19 PM | Permalink

    Can’t wait to read it. This must be my week for sisters: The Weird Sisters & Rosamund Lupton’s Sisters. I’ll add this to the list..

  12. April 26, 2011 - 11:42 PM | Permalink

    Glad to hear you liked it that much, I have it coming from the library. I read only your last paragraph. I don’t read reviews until after I’ve read a book but I will come back and compare notes. Thanks for reviewing it.

  13. Shelle's Gravatar Shelle
    Twitter: shellesumners
    April 27, 2011 - 10:52 AM | Permalink

    Hi, I read an excerpt from The Bird Sisters a couple of days ago and was very impressed. Your review has sealed it for me, off to Amazon to order my copy now!

  14. Savvy Working Gal's Gravatar Savvy Working Gal
    Twitter: Savvy Working Gal
    May 8, 2011 - 9:01 PM | Permalink

    I just read in the Milw Journal that Rebecca is visiting Milwaukee the week I am out of town. I so wanted to see her since I also grew up in Spring Green. Every time an author comes to town I really want to see I am gone. Then I remembered one of my blogging friends wrote about her book. It was you. You tweeted how much you liked it. I am happy to see I now trust book bloggers over amazon. Can’ t wait to read this book.

  15. December 7, 2011 - 1:00 AM | Permalink

    Twiss and Milly, quirky spinster sisters in the twilight years of their life, who still live on the home place in Wisconsin and take in injured birds, had their lives change back in 1947. Flashback: Milly, beautiful and quiet, likes to cook and has begun to fall in love and dreams of a marriage with children. Sarcastic Twiss, younger by two years, has a totally different temperament – she’d rather be outdoors and playing in the dirt. Milly is her mother’s favorite and Twiss – her father’s. When their sickly cousin Bett arrives for a summer visit, the whole family is falling apart, a marriage crumbling, with Milly and Twiss trying their best to fix and patch things between their parents.

    Melancholy and sad, this book is a story of a great love between sisters and great sacrifice. Be prepared as the sisters flashback and forth between the present and past. Each chapter slowly reveals the reason why the sisters are alone, except for each other, in the present time.

    “Life and death- what paltry words, what tarnished bookends, what unjust summation for drawing breath one moment and failing to release it the next.”

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