Book: [amazon_link id=”0307717968″ target=”_blank” ]The Bird Sisters [/amazon_link]by Rebecca Rasmussen (NEW, April, 2011)
…Twiss knew she’d stay with her sister in Wisconsin despite wanting to see Machu Picchu and the Continental Divide. 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.
In The Bird Sisters, Rebecca Rasmussen paints Wisconsin farmland and small town U.S.A.–a backdrop that both feeds and limits these two sisters’ lives. The story is as small and fragile as the birds that people used to bring to the sisters to fix. We learn the story of their lives bit by bit as they ponder the secrets, the love, the deceits that shaped their lives.
The people in The Bird Sisters, for the most part, are not travelers, so what is this doing on the travel library shelf? Is it really travel literature? Despite their seemingly hemmed in lives in Spring Green Wisconsin, characters yearn to be other places. The book seems haunted with possibilities.
Their mother has been to France and has flown in a small airplane, looking down at a familiar landscape that seems ideal at a distance. After talking about France, teaching the girls French, yearning for her once rich life, she finally says, “I’ll never see France again, will I?”
She listens to a radio show called “A Day in the Life” that portrays what it would be like to drive a train across Colorado, or sing on Broadway, or climb Kilimanjaro.
Their father’s dreams of being a golf pro are dashed by an accident and he moves into the barn.
The town priest runs off to Mexico “to drink margaritas and sleep with a Mexian woman,” but even he returns to Spring Green.
Why do these two old ladies wind up staying in the same house with only each other to depend on? We find out as they look back at their younger days. One sister, Milly, was once beautiful and kind, and full of promise; the other, Twiss (the one who thought she might some day go to Machu Picchu) daring and contrary and independent. When they were children, a cousin came to spend the summer and changed all their lives. In contrast to the leafy Spring Green, bursting with life, she comes from a place called Dead Water, and has stories of evil and decay. Even so, Dead Water is somewhere else, and Milly and Twiss think for a time that they might want to go there.
Even the landscape contributes to the yearning for somewhere else.
Beyond the porch and their feet were the rolling hills, the county and the country, and the winding Wisconsin River, which gained and lost strength, narrowed and widened, rose and fell, all the way down to the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico, the confluence of river and ocean.
When you are in a thoughtful mood, about why you yearn to travel, or why you do not travel, and what difference it makes, you might want to take a look at The Bird Sisters. Note: The author may be totally surprised to see her novel on the travel shelf, also. There is so much going on in this beautifully crafted book that everyone who reads it will take away something different. If you read it, let me know what you see.
I appreciate the publishers, Crown, an imprint of Random House, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. The book is also available for electronic readers. Please click on the photos, from Flickr with Creative Commons license, to see who took them and to learn more about them. The book title is linked to Amazon for your convenience. If you click through to Amazon and purchase anything at all, I get a few cents which helps support A Traveler’s Library. Thanks.
Note: If you follow the link in the first paragraph to Spring Green, Wisconsin, you will see that it would be a charming place to visit–Frank Lloyd Wright, a theater company, beautiful river scenery. As far as I could find out, Dead Water is a figment of the author’s imagination.