The Bird Sisters: A Novel

( 46 )

Overview

When 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. These spinster sisters have spent their lives nursing people and birds back to health.
 
But back in the summer of 1947, Milly and Twiss knew nothing about trying to mend what had been ...
See more details below
Paperback
$11.85
BN.com price
(Save 15%)$14.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (61) from $1.99   
  • New (10) from $7.55   
  • Used (51) from $1.99   
The Bird Sisters: A Novel

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$9.99
BN.com price

Overview

When 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. These spinster sisters have spent their lives nursing people and birds back to health.
 
But back in the summer of 1947, Milly and Twiss knew nothing about trying to mend what had been accidentally broken. 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.
 
Rebecca Rasmussen's masterfully written debut novel is full of hope and beauty, heartbreak and sacrifice, love and the power of sisterhood, and offers wonderful surprises at every turn.

From the Hardcover edition.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"THE BIRD SISTERS is truly something to crow about. Rasmussen’s obvious intimacy with her characters...breathes such life into them, each voice is perfectly defined, whether her characters speak as teenager or septuagenarians."--St. Louis magazine

"THE BIRD SISTERS is in no way imitative, it has the sturdy literary bones of pastoral masterworks such as Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres and Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping." - St. Louis-Post Dispatch

"A magical debut, original and poignant, lovely and moving. THE BIRD SISTERS evokes the richly imaginative joys of childhood and the throat-aching betrayals and loyalties of being an adult. I absolutely loved THE BIRD SISTERS and will carry Milly and Twiss with me as if in a locket for a long, long time." -- Jenna Blum, bestselling author of Those Who Save Us

“What a book -- unique, beautifully written, vivid and heartbreaking. I loved it. With evocative and finely wrought prose, Rebecca Rasmussen has crafted a moving story that explores the fierce bonds, wounds, and tender complexities of the human heart. THE BIRD SISTERS is a magical debut.”—Beth Hoffman, bestselling author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

"THE BIRD SISTERS is that immensely satisfying combination of indelible characters and a suspenseful and cunningly revealed plot. In lovely evocative prose Rebecca Rasmussen conjures up her two sisters, Milly and Twiss, and their rural Wisconsin community during the summer that changed their lives. Full of wonderful surprises, this is a splendid debut that will stay with the reader long after the last page."–Margot Livesey

"Rebecca Rasmussen has written her graceful debut, THE BIRD SISTERS, with unflinching and transporting empathy. After a few short chapters of this vivid, lucid novel, you will forget you are reading words on a page; the book in your hands will become a portable window into the interior lives of two remarkable sisters."–Stefan Merrill Block, author of The Story of Forgetting

"In shining prose, Rebecca Rasmussen brings to life the world of Milly and Twiss —characters written with such grace and tenderness that I fell in love with them at once. THE BIRD SISTERS is a lush and moving story about discovery and disappointment, failing and forgiveness, and the enduring bond of family. It’s a beautiful novel."–Aryn Kyle, author of The God of Animals

“In THE BIRD SISTERS, Rebecca Rasmussen has created the ultimate literary heroines with Milly and Twiss. Heartbreakingly brave as they are fragile, the sisters endure despite the failings of love both familial and romantic, of promises not kept, of dreams deferred and the price one pays for keeping secrets. In prose that sings, Rasmussen has created a magical world where you will believe that birds – and perhaps even humans — no matter how broken — will soar under the capable ministrations of Milly and Twiss.”—Robin Antalek, author of The Summer We Fell Apart

"THE BIRD SISTERS tells its tale with prose as miraculous as the images it conveys, like a starling, on the verge of death, suddenly twitching and taking flight. The achingly human characters, so stubborn they keep unspoken all the words that could save them, are tied together by last chances and lost love. And yet Rebecca Rasmussen’s gorgeous debut is infused with a certain grace: there remains hope that damaged things, wild or tame, can still be nursed back together again." --Siobhan Fallon, author of You Know When the Men Are Gone

“Rasmussen’s debut novel is full of grace and humanity. Her poetic prose creates an almost magical, wholly satisfying world. [T]his wistful but wise story is enchanting and timeless.”—Library Journal (Starred review)

"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…Achingly authentic and almost completely character driven, the story of the sisters depicts the endlessly binding ties of family."–Publisher’s Weekly

"A bittersweet, charmingly offbeat debut… [Rasmussen writes with] warmth and originality." – Kirkus Reviews

From the Hardcover edition.

Publishers Weekly
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.)
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307717979
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/22/2011
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 581,940
  • Product dimensions: 5.22 (w) x 8.02 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

Rebecca Rasmussen
REBECCA RASMUSSEN teaches creative writing and literature at Fontbonne University. Her stories have appeared in Triquarterly magazine and the Mid-American Review. She was a finalist in both Narrative magazine’s 30 Below Contest for writers under the age of thirty and in Glimmer Train’s Family Matters Contest. She lives with her husband and daughter in St. Louis.  This is her first novel.
 
Visit her at TheBirdSisters.com.

From the Hardcover edition.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

1

Used to be when a bird flew into a window, Milly and Twiss got a visit. Milly would put a kettle on and set out whatever culinary adventure she'd gone on that day. For morning arrivals, she offered her famous vanilla drop biscuits and raspberry jam. Twiss would get the medicine bag from the hall closet and sterilize the tools she needed, depending on the seriousness of the injury. A wounded limb was one thing. A wounded crop was another.

People used to come from as far away as Reedsburg and Wilton. Milly would sit with them while Twiss patched up the poor old robin or the sweet little meadowlark. Over the years, the number of visitors had dwindled. Now that the grocery store sold readybake biscuits and jelly in all the colors of the rainbow, people didn't bother as much about birds.

On a particularly low morning, while the two sisters were having tea and going over their chore lists, Milly pulled back the curtains when she heard an engine straining on one of the nearby hillsides. When all she saw was the empty gravel drive, the hawkweed poking up along the edges, she let go of them.

"We should be glad," she said. "Maybe the birds are getting smarter."

Twiss brought the breakfast dishes to the sink. They were down to toast and butter now, sometimes a hardboiled egg from the night before. "How can you stand to be so positive?"

"We're old," Milly said. "What else can we do?"

But even she missed the sound of strangers in the house, the way the pine floors creaked under new weight. Had it really been a month since a person other than Twiss had spoken to her? Time had a funny way of moving when you didn't want it to and standing still when you did. Milly didn't bother to wind the cuckoo clock above the sink anymore; there was something sadistic about the way it popped out of its miniature door so cheerfully every quarter hour. But the visitors! Though she and Twiss had devoted their lives to saving birds, not wishing for them to be injured, the last few years Milly had perked up whenever a car turned into their driveway instead of continuing up the road. Most of the time, the people would be looking for directions back to town. They'd spread out their laminated touring maps with expressions of shame because "just in case," the words they'd used to justify buying the maps in the first place, meant they were lost, and there were no noble ways to say that. The men would look up at the sky, trying one last time to discern east from west, and the women would look down at the ground because their husbands had failed to understand a simple map. Milly would put the couples at ease by admitting that she missed a turn every once in a while, even though there wasn't one to miss. She'd point to the blank space between the hills and the river.

This is where you are.

When the sound of the engine grew louder, unlike all of the others during the last month, Milly pulled back the curtains again. This time, a green minivan was barreling down the driveway, kicking up dust that did not quickly settle.

"I knew this one was for us," she said.

"Better get ready," Twiss said, leaving her cup of tea and going for the medicine bag in the hall closet. "People who drive minivans usually know where they are."

And the driver of the green minivan did, although the country wasn't where she was supposed to be at eight thirty in the morning. On her way to drop her children off at the elementary school in town, the woman had run over a goldfinch, and her daughter had cried enough to make her do something about it. The minivan's tires, rutted monstrosities that belonged on a tractor, had severed one of the goldfinch's wings and crushed the other one. The goldfinch was also missing his left eye, which the little girl said she'd looked for on the road but couldn't find among the crumble of loose blacktop.

"Poor thing," Twiss said, which meant the goldfinch wouldn't live. Twiss had spent her life saving birds; all she had to do was glance at one to know if it would recover or not. And all Milly had to do was glance at Twiss, who'd never been especially skilled at hiding what she saw.

Twiss kissed the goldfinch's tawny beak.

"Yes, you are a poor thing," Milly said, kissing it too.

Twiss took the goldfinch, the medicine bag, and the little girl to the bathroom off the kitchen. After she laid out her instruments on a towel, Twiss would pick up Dr. Greene's old stethoscope. If she heard even a faint heartbeat, she'd patch up what she could and splint whatever she couldn't with strips of balsa wood from the old model airplane in the attic. She'd offer the goldfinch a teaspoon of millet and peanut butter and hold him up to the window so he could see the sky. Once a bird had lost his ability to fly, not much else 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 not the latter.

Milly steered the mother, a woman with the frame of a thin person but the flesh of one who'd had too many children and worries to keep her figure, to the kitchen. Instead of taking the seat Milly offered her, the mother paced across the linoleum, pausing to examine the surroundings now and then. She paid particular attention to Milly's collection of ceramic saltandpepper shakers lined up like avian soldiers, orange beak to orange beak, hummingbirds to owls, on the shelf above the stove, and to the damask wallpaper Milly and Twiss had helped their mother put up when they were girls, which had bubbled at the outset because they'd applied the glue too liberally. Over the years, the wallpaper had peeled back little by little so that now it clung to the wall desperately when it clung at all.

The mother seemed the most interested in the milkglass lamp in the far corner of the kitchen and the WC stenciled in blue paint on the bathroom door. Like many other visitors before her, she seemed surprised to find the house equipped with indoor plumbing and modern electricity. Milly expected the mother to say what everyone from her generation said: We used to have that exact shade in our kitchen! What they didn't say but what Milly had gleaned from their collective tone, and the decorating magazines in the general store, was that they'd replaced the opaque milkglass fixtures with track lighting the moment they could afford it. And the moment they could afford track lighting, they could afford to be sentimental.

Oh? Milly would say, wondering why anyone would want the equivalent of a runway on his or her ceiling. But the mother didn't say anything about track lighting.

"I kept telling her a bird's nothing to cry about," she said about her daughter. "When you've had your heart broken, you'll run over a person and you won't even notice."

The mother finally took the seat Milly had offered her, which pleased Milly since she was used to people sitting down and telling her things, seeking from her a kind of emotional support only strangers could offer while Twiss patched up the birds in the bathroom; that kind of listening made Milly feel useful when most of the time now she felt useless.

The rest of the woman's children, three gangly boys, were standing on the front porch daring one another to jump off the steps into the mud puddle that had formed beside Milly's freshly watered flower beds.

"Would you like a biscuit and jam?" Milly said, mentally hauling out the mixing bowl and the sack of flour from the pantry. There had to be a jar of jam left in the cellar that mold didn't inhabit. Another stick of butter, too.

"I have to stay away from things I enjoy," the mother said, pulling her T-shirt over the part of her stomach that had become exposed in the process of sitting down. "This book I'm reading says if you want to be as thin as a stalk of celery, then that's what you should be eating. I'm not sure I want to look like celery, but I know I don't want to look like a biscuit."

Her wristwatch began to beep, softly at first, then louder and louder. She smacked it against her leg, which changed the cadence of the beeping but didn't stop it. Before she could turn it off, her middle boy came in and took a yellow pill out of her purse.

"Seizures," the mother said, after he swallowed the pill and went back to the porch. "He's had them since he was a baby. The other ones have food allergies. I can't make anything without one of them puffing up. Rice puffs make them puff up."

"That must be difficult," Milly said.

"It is when you have a husband like mine."

When Milly didn't say anything, the mother added, "He sells carpeting. The kind that's been doused with toxic chemicals."

Milly glanced at the green linoleum, the slick of wax beneath the table.

"Depending on what part of the country he's in, I wish for a disaster that corresponds to that region. If he's in California, I think about earthquakes. In Florida, it's hurricanes. In Colorado, it's avalanches. Great cascading, obliterating avalanches."

The mother put her hand on her hip. "You wouldn't know it to look at me, but I used to be a runner. I set a national record once."

"You don't run anymore?" Milly said.

"I don't do a lot of things anymore," the mother said.

Usually, visitors would eat a biscuit and talk about the price of gasoline or the corn coming up in the fields along the river. It isn't as sweet as it used to be, they'd say, when what they meant was I'm almost used to being unhappy.

"I know exactly what you mean," Milly said, looking out the window at the patch of earth where the garden used to be. "I used to grow everything--tomatoes, squash, zucchini, peppers, lovely little potatoes. Fingerlings, I think they were called."

Before the mother had a chance to say anything, the little girl ran into the room.

"WetriedtosavethebirdieMama!"

"Slow down," the mother said. "I can't understand you."

"We tried to save the birdie, Mama, but it died."

The mother sighed deeply, as if she'd expected this outcome from the very beginning. Rather than causing her sadness, the events of the morning seemed merely to have exhausted her. "Remember what I said about heaven, Molly?"

"But it can't fly," the girl said.

Milly placed her hand on the girl's curls. Their softness and the scattering of freckles at the girl's neckline, the sudden camaraderie she felt with the mother, opened up something inside her that hadn't been opened in a long time. She was lured to the feeling the way other people were lured to trespass on property that was not their own.

"I'm not sure about heaven," Milly said to the mother while she stroked the girl's hair. "I used to believe heaven was a place in the clouds and God was a nice old man who sat on top of the highest, fluffiest one. Then one day our priest, Father Rice, announced that God either didn't exist or He didn't care. It wasn't what he said that was the same as learning Santa Claus wasn't real. It's what happened after that made me believe he may have been right."

The little girl's mouth dropped open, and a highpitched mewling, not altogether different from the sound calves made when they were separated from their mothers, came streaming across her lips. Then came the glassy eyes and the sniffling.

"Santa died too?" she said.

The mother lifted the girl onto her hip as if Milly had become dangerous.

After that, everything happened so quickly that an apology, let alone a gesture of apology, was impossible for Milly to achieve.

The mother called to her other children to stop jumping and get into the car. Before she buckled the four of them in and drove off, she looked at Milly with an equal mix of fierceness and pity. "You just made my day ten times harder," she said.

And then, "Only a person without children would say something like that."

Twiss came into the kitchen a few minutes later carrying the goldfinch, which she'd wrapped in one of their mother's embroidered handkerchiefs. Whenever birds died in their care, they buried them in the gladiola bed out back.

"Where did everyone go?" Twiss said.

"The children were late for school," Milly said, picking up her tea and then setting it down again on the kitchen table.

She was still trying to understand what had happened. It must have been all that talk about natural disasters, a disastrous marriage. In reaction to the woman, and the toxic fumes she imagined rising from the floors in the woman's house, the pessimist had broken out of its shackles. Heaven? The topic was too tempting.

What she couldn't stop thinking about was the way the mother had looked at her and how that look, more than her words, had exposed the fact that Milly had never had children, a fact that usually didn't bother her, because she had the birds to fall back on when she invited people into their home. Most visitors were too busy worrying about karmic retributions (were there any?) for running over a bird on their way to work to notice that she'd never experienced the pain of childbirth, the pleasure of loving someone more than she loved herself.

The luxury, Milly thought when Twiss set the goldfinch on the table. She stroked his neck the same way she'd stroked the girl's, although instead of curls, she felt broken bones. "That woman didn't think a goldfinch merited a kink in her schedule," she said to Twiss.

"Then we can only hope someone runs over her one day," Twiss said.

"Is death always your solution?"

"At least my dead people go to heaven," Twiss said.

Milly sat down at the table with the empty teacups, the napkins she'd folded the moment she saw the car coming up the driveway. "I don't know what got into me."

"Three-quarters of a century's a long time to live like a saint."

"I'm not a saint," Milly said.

Twiss patted her shoulder. "Not anymore."

From the Hardcover edition.

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

1. The Bird Sisters is set in Spring Green, Wisconsin, a small farming community by the Wisconsin River. Spring Green seems to be distinct in nearly every way from Deadwater, Minnesota, which is where Cousin Bett has grown up. How does each location shape the story, each community, and our characters? Can you imagine Milly and Twiss in Deadwater? How do the places we live shape us?

2. The novel is primarily set during the late 1940s, when the pace of life was a little bit slower than it is today. There seems to be a pervasive cultural nostalgia and a renaissance with regard to skills and cultural mores from the recent past (for example, folks learning how to can vegetables, a love of vintage clothing, etc.). Why do you think this is?

3. Memories play such a powerful role in Milly and Twiss’s lives because, in many ways, their lives were arrested while both were teenagers. Can they ever be at peace? Is there always time for a fresh start?

4. Milly and Twiss will do anything and everything for each other in the novel, but they won’t talk openly about all that has happened to them over the course of their lives—especially events in their youth. Why is it so diffi cult for them? After so many years together, do you think that each knows of the other’s disappointments, vulnerabilities, and heartbreaks without having to explicitly say it? Or do you think that even after all this time the two do not know each other as well as they think?

5. Money is a constant source of tension for Milly and Twiss’s parents in the novel, but in the beginning of their relationship, their mother thought that her dreams would come true without her family’s money, and their father thought that his dreams would come true through his proximity to money at the country club. How were they right and how were they wrong? Money, and lack of it, is also a source of confl ict between other characters (for example, Father Rice steals the entire meager collection from the church and Mr. Peterson pays for Bett’s medical care). How does money solve problems in the novel as well as create them?

6. Cousin Bettie—Bett—comes down from Deadwater, Minnesota, to stay with Milly and Twiss for the summer and in doing so changes the dynamics of their family. Bett grows close to each of the sisters in very different ways. How would the family have changed if not for Bett? In other words, do you think that the changes were the result of Bett’s particular personality? Or do you think that she was just in the right place at the right time to be seen as a catalyst?

7. Both Milly and Twiss sacrifi ce their personal dreams for, they think, the betterment of the other. When is personal sacrifice for the sake of the larger goal noble and valiant? At what point is it foolish? Do you think that they make the right choices? How do you think Bett feels about her choices? What do you think she was trying to tell Milly by sending her the book?

8. Milly and Twiss love their parents deeply, but they don’t know quite how to forgive them. How do you think their lives might change if they were able to forgive them? Are they able to forgive Bett and Asa?

9. Asa, Mr. Peterson, and Joe all seem to make significant life choices based on snap judgments. How has this impulsive streak served them well? How has it hurt them? If Asa truly loved Milly as he seemed to, how could he so quickly abandon her? Do you think he understood at the time what Milly was asking of him? And by asking it, do you think she was asking too much of someone she loved?

10. Throughout the novel, Twiss and Father Rice exchange letters. In these letters, Twiss often reveals her secret feelings. Father Rice, in turn, reveals his. In the age of the Internet, have we lost the intimacy that can be found in this old-fashioned form of correspondence, the traditional letter? How do we choose to share what we do when it’s by letter, e-mail, text, Twitter, Facebook update, blog post, or telephone? When was the last time you handwrote a letter?

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 46 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(18)

4 Star

(13)

3 Star

(7)

2 Star

(5)

1 Star

(3)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 46 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 5, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Great book discussion choice!

    A wonderful story about two sisters and the lives they have chosen or end up with. Makes you wonder what might have been. It is also an interesting look at the interconnectedness of lives and how they all come together to influence one another.

    If you read it be sure you have a friend to talk about it with.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 8, 2012

    The characters are interesting and well written. The story was

    The characters are interesting and well written. The story was a little slow at times but overall I liked the book. I would recommend.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2012

    Unique

    The Bird Sisters is one of those books that one reflects on often after reading it. Aging, love, and devotion are keen topics. It was a book for our book club and I look forward to discussing it. The back of the book has some great ideas of discussion questions. The book is set in Wisconsin; about an hour from me.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2012

    Loved It!

    This story of two aging sisters living together...was a very satisfying read....the sisters come alive through the past which is slowly revealed...the reader gets to know them through the past and present

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 30, 2011

    a very good story and a good read

    The Bird Sisters is the story of two sisters and how in one summer changed their whole lives. The story switches between time and narrator. Both sisters, Milly and Twiss, take turns remembering the summer that their cousin Bett came to visit. At first, I found this really distracting. It was as if as soon as I got involved in one of the girls perspective it was switched. However, I got the hang of it and there was only one time jump at the end that truly confused me.

    I really enjoyed both sisters. Milly in all of her proper pleasing ways and Twiss in her wild stubbornness. Nevertheless, I wanted to beat both of the senseless at different times. Milly who is willing to sit back and put everyone else first even if it will destroy her. Or Twiss who's contrary just for contrary sake.

    I had kind of figured out how the story was going to go, but there were a couple of twists I didn't count on. I found the ending SO upsetting. I grew very fond of these characters and although its pretty clear how these women were going to end up I was still crushed that it turned out like it did.

    Overall it was a very good story and a good read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2013

    Great story.

    Great story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 17, 2012

    I loved it at first, but it lost me. It seemed like work to figu

    I loved it at first, but it lost me. It seemed like work to figure out what was going on. I'm sorry to say I put it down. Maybe I'll try it again later -

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 15, 2012

    Excellent characters, average story line.

    The characters were extremely well written and I enjoyed and connected with them very well. It was also very easy to visualize the venue.
    The story itself lacked continuity and felt unfinished.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2014

    Beautiful story

    Awesome book
    Emotional great read

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2012

    Great story

    Nostalgic

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 2, 2012

    Uncommonly Lovely

    "The Bird Sisters" is one of those small, quiet gems that you hope to stumble upon a few times in your reading career. Written in delicate prose, the story documents the lives of two sisters who have lived side by side into their old age, along with the remnants of childhood they never quite detached themselves from. Twiss, the rough and tumble tomboy, her cup runneth over with spunk, is the bird healer, while Milly, beautiful and startlingly insightful in her views of her small, contained world, is the listener. Though different, they are bound by something far more than just sisterhood--it's a bond of early tragedy, of lives spent in the calm and compact by choice and, in some ways, necessity. They understand the purpose of giving up for gaining. The novel is written in their shifting points of view, both in old age and youth.

    When their unusually sharp and inexplicably charismatic cousin comes to town, the two girls are not only first-hand witnesses to the extent of human weakness, but also the give and take quality of life, the choices one is forced to make, the consequences that follow any choice, and the persistence of memory. They, along with the rest of the characters, are taken by their cousin's odd mix of world-weariness, clever observations, and aloof manner.

    This novel is about how all of our parents are subject to mistake, and will, in time, disappoint us no matter how much love is between a family. How none of us are perfect, or nearly perfect, and we must find forgiveness anyways. It's about how good people are capable of awful things, and that to judge right and wrong is placing the world into two, restrictive and impossible dimensions. Lastly, it's about love, the the variations and revisions we must go through in order to secure some semblance of it, and the words that must be said and never mentioned in the first place. It's about a sisterly understanding that goes without saying, a birth promise.

    It's soft-spoken just like Milly, but there's a palpable spine made up of small, heart-breaking truths that anchors the story for the reader. And it's also a wonderful documentation of life lived not in a grand city or foreign land, but in a small town in Wisconsin. It's unimposing and deeply important. Where two sisters--a beauty and a wild thing--both learn to give up something in exchange for peace--something neither of their parents were ever able to achieve. Where Bett, an intelligent young woman, full to the brim with cynicism and the desire to live up to her imagined adulthood, trades in real character for easiness with disappointingly childish simplicity. Parents don't always have the right answers, and sometimes, they can't seem to find any at all.

    This novel is about something far more than the token happy ending. "The Bird Sisters" traces the importance and magnitude of decisions, what we owe and do not owe to one another, the lovely aspect of what bittersweet really means, and how we eventually must learn to live with our choices in order to find that illusive thing called happiness.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2012

    Not Exciting

    I found it very slow going, hard to get threw. Maybe just me!

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2012

    I would recommend this book to any one who enjoys reading.

    This book was a work of fiction, but it brought memories in life,I just think it was a great read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2011

    I have not read it yet!

    Have not read it yet!

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 14, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Sometimes you don't get what you want, you get what you need

    The Bird Sisters. An intriguing name for Rebecca Rasmussen's critically acclaimed and much-beloved debut novel. What does it mean? Who are these sisters? Creating a beautiful metaphor for her two lead characters, Milly and Twiss, Rasmussen unveils a portrait of unconditional love. On the surface, these two elderly women are known in their small Wisconsin town as the healers of injured birds. But on a deeper level, as the summer of 1947 is revealed via flashback, an understanding and appreciation of their utter resiliency becomes apparent. They each carry their own internal wounds and scars, and the only balm they find is in each other. The other's presence is the sole elixir that alleviates the pain and loneliness of their quiet, isolated existence. They are kindred spirits to the nth degree - two halves of the same tortured soul.

    Of course, their present condition is the end result of their parents' actions. A beautiful, but frustrated, mother. A jaded, cyncial father. A crumbling, distant marriage. Things weren't always like this, but in 1947 when their father gets into an accident and loses his job, despair takes hold of the entire family and never lets go.

    Milly is a shy, yet natural, beauty. She begins to attract the attention of Asa, the son of a neighboring farmer. She is a quiet, gentle soul full of grace and dignity. Twiss, on the other hand, is a helter skelter tomboy roaring with energy and mischief. She bases her life around honesty and says what's on her mind. She expects people to be straight with her, and demands the truth, no matter how hurtful it may be, when they are not. Ultimately, Twiss yearns to get out and see the world, while Milly wants a family she can devote her entire life to.

    Rasmussen has a deft touch for creating a pitch-perfect setting for the novel. You can feel the sun on your face as the girls float arms outstretched in the local swimming hole. You can smell the freshly cut grass behind the wheels of Asa's lawn tractor. You can see the light on in the barn where their father keeps his solitary vigil. You can hear the lure of the carnival barkers at the country fair. You can taste the sugary icing on Twiss' cake. The imagery is pure, down home comfort.

    But it is not enough to keep the family in tact. Through an act of betrayal, it is up to the self-sacrifice of the sisters to set right a grievous wrong. They are both denied the lives they have dreamed about. Instead, they are left to pick up the pieces and band together under their shared sense of solidarity and loss. They gave up everything for the sake of preserving the dignity of others. They made the hard choice, and accepted the consequences of what came with it. All that remains for them, is the love that they have for each other. And even if it is not enough, it is what ultimately sustains them even as they enter their final years.

    Overall, sometimes you don't get what you want, you get what you need.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2011

    disappointed

    So slow and it never got going, I was bored with it, but I read on since I paid for it and felt I should finish it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 3, 2011

    Highly recommend.

    Loved this charming, rich, beautifully written first novel. Milly and Twiss - could be Margaret and Gertrude, my two deceased great aunts - together forever. Heartache, disappointment, life, disfunctional parents... yet they were completely innocent, beautiful women. Wept when I finished. Highly recommend.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 16, 2011

    A nice reading journey!

    I loved Rasmussen's writing style. The story meanders along, the prose is beautiful. It is relaxed, not forced. You begin to be attached to these characters, and you can "see" them very clearly. I highly recommend it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 16, 2011

    A wonderful story!

    I can't say enough good things about this story. The writing is outstanding and I did not want it to end. From start to finish the author has developed the story and it never loses anything throughout the book. For many authors this is not true. I've read some great books, but toward the end the story doesn't hold together. I anxiously await her next book. Rebecca Rasmussen is a special class of writer.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 3, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Beautifully Written Debut!

    The first time I learned of this book, I was excited. After reading the little blurb about it, I was even more excited to learn it took place in Spring Green, Wisconsin, which I am somewhat familiar with. I have visited there many times and it is an excellent place for a novel to take place.

    Milly and Twiss are elderly sisters who live together in the home in which they grew up. They are known as the Bird Sisters. People bring injured birds to them where Twiss does what she can to heal them while Milly listens to the people that bring the birds to them. When a goldfinch is brought to them, Twiss remembers the summer of 1947, the summer that changed their lives drastically with a visit from their cousin, Bette. The chapters alternate between the present day and the summer of 1947. Milly had her future all planned out right down to the names of the children she planned on having. Twiss, who was a spunky tomboy was happy to be on the golf course with her father and she really didn't think much about the future except that she couldn't imagine life without her sister. We know the two ladies end up living together in their golden years but we don't know how or why they got to that point until we learn of the events of that dreaded summer. The town is full of an array of wonderful, quirky characters. I fell in love with many of them, while some irritated me much in the same way they bothered the girls. I was very tickled with the mention of The Cave of the Mounds, a tourist attraction I have been too many times both as a child and as an adult.

    Rebecca Rasmussen has a beautiful way with words. The novel is character driven and the prose is simply beautiful. I could close my eyes and see the farm where the sisters lived clearly in my mind. In the end, it is a story of loyalty, love and sacrifice and it is written just beautifully. As soon as that goldfinch was delivered to the sisters I was hooked! This is one book you don't want to miss! This is a book I will reread just so I can visit the sisters again! I can't wait to see what Rebecca will write next!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 46 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)