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Names My Sisters Call Me

Names My Sisters Call Me

3.9 12
by Megan Crane

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Courtney, Norah, and Raine Cassel are as different as three sisters can be. Norah, the oldest, is a type A obsessive who hasn't forgiven Raine, the middle sister, for ruining her wedding day six years ago. Raine is Norah's opposite, a wild child/performance artist/follow-your-bliss hippie chick who ran off to California. The only thing the two have in common is their


Courtney, Norah, and Raine Cassel are as different as three sisters can be. Norah, the oldest, is a type A obsessive who hasn't forgiven Raine, the middle sister, for ruining her wedding day six years ago. Raine is Norah's opposite, a wild child/performance artist/follow-your-bliss hippie chick who ran off to California. The only thing the two have in common is their ability to drive Courtney, their youngest sister, crazy.

When her longtime boyfriend proposes, Courtney decides it's finally time to call a truce and bring the three sisters together. After all, they're grown-ups now, right? But it turns out that family ghosts aren't easily defeated--and neither are first loves. Soon Courtney finds herself reexamining every choice she has made in the past six years--including the man she's about to marry--and the value of reconnecting with the sisters she knows she needs, in spite of everything.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In this witty novel by the author of Frenemies, Philadelphia cellist Courtney Cassel decides the occasion of her engagement is the perfect time to heal family wounds. Six years ago, wild-child middle sister Raine ruined oldest sister Norah's wedding and ran off with longtime friend Matt Cheney, with whom Courtney was having a secret affair. Accompanying her supportive fiancé, Lucas, on a business trip to San Francisco, Courtney drops in on Raine unannounced and discovers Raine is still with the smoldering, charismatic Matt, whose mere presence can still reduce Courtney to the emotional state of an adolescent. Soon, Courtney's questioning every choice she's made. When Matt and Raine show up for the engagement party, scores are settled, lives are examined and a few secrets about strait-laced Norah come to light. Crane's brisk voice and knack for finding the humor in Courtney's angst keep the mood upbeat all the way to the rosy resolution. (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Courtney Cassel's life is full of promise-she's a cellist in Philadelphia's Second Symphony Orchestra, and her boyfriend, Lucas, just proposed. But her relationship with her family isn't as good. Her father died after abandoning the family, leaving her mother unable to handle her older sisters, controlling Norah and irresponsible Raine. Family troubles peaked six years ago, when Raine ruined Norah's wedding and ran off with Courtney's then-boyfriend, Matt. Now, against Norah's stridently expressed wishes, Courtney travels to San Francisco to invite her fun, formerly favorite sister Raine to her engagement party. But does she want to heal family wounds, or is she really looking for Matt? And will this cost her the understanding Lucas? As Courtney learns what she truly wants, she, like most chick-lit heroines, makes some bad choices. But Courtney isn't stupid, just appealingly human throughout. And although her sisters' intense personalities irritate, the two are not completely unsympathetic. Crane's (Frenemies) latest is recommended, especially where books featuring sororal relationships, such as Lee Nichols's Hand-Me-Downand Eileen Rendahl's Do Me, Do My Roots, are popular.
—Lisa Davis-Craig

Kirkus Reviews
Crane (Frenemies, 2007, etc.) explores a woman's discoveries about sisterly love, first love and true love. The story is more serious than the book's frivolous cover would suggest. It concerns Courtney Cassel, a professional cellist whose accomplishments are praised by everyone, including fiery best friend Verena and adoring fiance Lucas. Unfortunately, Courtney's achievements are largely ignored by those who matter most to her-her family. After Courtney's father abandoned the clan, Courtney became lost amidst the commanding personalities of sisters Raine and Norah. Raine turned into a rebellious hippie, her Birkenstocks and creative impulses the opposite of Norah's intellectualism and Type A personality. The chasm between the two grew exponentially, and things only got worse at Norah's wedding, where Raine caused a scene, then took off for California with Matt Cheney, Raine's best friend and Courtney's first love. Six years later, Courtney is convinced that her engagement party will be the perfect opportunity to reunite her family, and she accompanies Lucas to San Francisco. She finds Raine tending bar and exploring her artistic side by taking anatomical self-portraits, and comes face-to-face with Matt Cheney. Gorgeous and alluring as ever, the rush of attraction she has always felt toward him comes flooding back. Instead of setting a wedding date, Courtney becomes consumed by her desire to both win Raine's affection (while maintaining Norah's approval) and understand her feelings for Lucas and Matt. Lucas and Matt and Norah and Raine, though somewhat two-dimensional, are artfully pitted against one another. In this world of catty sibling rivalry, where the protagonist serves as doormat,Lucas remains the most admirable, solid character, and Verena, despite her penchant for shopping and promiscuity, acts as the surprising moral compass. While it takes Courtney some time to learn that self-worth comes from within, her innocence, sincerity and sense of humor will keep readers entertained. An inviting take on universal themes. Agent: Julie Barer/Barer Literary

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Grand Central Publishing
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Names My Sisters Call Me

By Megan Crane 5 SPOT

Copyright © 2008 Megan Crane
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-446-69856-6

Chapter One

When Lucas went down, right there on the sidewalk outside my sister's place in Chestnut Hill, my first thought was: ice.

It was February in Philadelphia. Ice was everywhere, along with slush, gray skies, the threat of more snow, and my personal and only slightly hysterical worry that this would be the year that winter refused to give way to spring, leaving us stuck in some Narnia-ish winter forevermore.

Lucas and I had skidded along down Germantown Avenue, from the train toward my sister's place, using our boot heels as impromptu ice skates. We'd attempted to avoid careening into the cute little shop windows, and I'd shared my fears of Narnia with Lucas, complete with my suspicion that the White Witch could be played to perfection by my sister Norah.

My boyfriend had just hit the concrete right in front of me, and this was what I thought about? Narnia and a mixture of frustration with my sister combined with guilt about my frustration? What if he required medical attention? I felt ashamed of myself.

"Oh my God," I said, throwing both hands out as if to catch him, though it was already too late. "Are you okay?" Which was when I noticed that he was grinning up at me, which was a good indicator that hospitalization wasn't required after all.

And that he was actually on one knee.

"Oh my God," was my brilliant response.

"I love you, Courtney," Lucas said, as if I'd said something brilliant. Or even coherent. "I've loved you since the day you sat next to me in that café and made up better headlines for the Sunday New York Times."

"That was three months after we started dating," I pointed out, as I had many times before when he brought up that morning in Center City near my old apartment. And I continued with the usual script, despite the clearly unusual circumstances. It was habit. "What was I before that? Just a fling?"

It felt strange to stand there towering over him, when it was normally the other way around, so I knelt down to face him, expecting the cold and wet to seep through my jeans in seconds. The funny thing was, I didn't much care when it did.

"I suspected I loved you before," Lucas continued, only the slightest hint of longsufferingness in his voice? for effect. "But that was when I knew. Kind of like right now, when you're interrupting me in the middle of my romantic proposal. Moments like this one make me realize not just that I love you but that we must be perfect for each other, because first of all, I think it's cute, and more importantly, I knew you N were going to say that."

"Yes," I whispered, reaching over to hold his face between my mittened hands. I thought about the years we'd been together, and how bright they seemed when compared to the years that came before. How bright everything seemed when he was near. "Yes, I will marry you."

"I haven't asked you to marry me," Lucas retorted. His gray eyes were calm and gleaming, all at once, and I wanted to look at nothing else, ever again.

"Well, hurry up then," I said. "Any minute now Norah's going to look out the window and assume we've finally gone crazy. Because most people don't propose on the street five seconds before an annoying family dinner, you know."

Lucas laughed and took my hands between his. He kissed each one and then let them go.

"I wanted to do this right smack in the middle of our life, because I love our life," he said. "I want our marriage to be a celebration of our life together, not something outside it."

He reached into his pocket and drew out a small box.

And that was when everything got real in a hurry. I was aware of a hundred things, all at once.

I couldn't believe this was actually happening. As in, to me, right then and there. I felt my heart thump against my ribs as I stared at the box in his hand, small and black and shaped to contain only one possible item.

I wasn't sure I was breathing.

In my fantasies, and I'd had a lot of them, this moment was usually accompanied by cinematic landscapes, orchestras, and possibly choirs of angels.

I'd seen so many films, and read so many books, that I felt sort of flung out of my own body as I stared at the velvet box Lucas held out to me. As if I were sitting in a theater somewhere watching this version of The Proposal. Except the role normally played by the wispy Hollywood actress du jour was now being played by me. Instead of the romantic, gauzy sort of dress I'd imagined wearing while being knelt in front of, I was dressed to battle the Philly elements in jeans, boots, and a warm peacoat. To say nothing of my hat, scarf, and mittens. I'd imagined a rolling summer meadow with an orchestra of songbirds. Instead, there were minivans swishing along the sub urban street, an obviously mentally challenged jogger in far too few clothes, and the general grim winter cacophony of the East Coast all around us. A cold street below and the threat of freezing rain from above. It was the last place in the world I would have expected a marriage proposal.

It was perfect.

"Courtney," Lucas said, never looking away from me. "Marry me." I reached past the velvet box and the glorious, gleaming ring nestled inside it, and kissed him on his delicious, perfect mouth.

"I love you," I whispered.

"I know you do," Lucas replied in the same whisper. "But now is the time to say 'yes.' There's a whole set routine to these things, Court. You're messing up my flow."

I loved his teasing tone, and that tilt of his head. As if he was proud and serious and thrilled, all at once.

"How would you know?" I teased him right back. "You've never proposed to anyone else."

"I might have. I'm very mysterious. You don't know everything." He tugged my left hand mitten off. Then he slipped the ring from the jeweler's box and very carefully slid it onto my hand, where it fit perfectly and sparkled, brightening the dim afternoon all around us.

"It's perfect," I breathed, and then we were beaming at each other and kissing.

I eased back from a kiss and held him close in a hug that felt like it should go on forever. Like it could somehow encapsulate everything that had happened since that fateful night at a party I hadn't really wanted to go to in the outskirts of Philadelphia, and found him there, almost as if he'd been waiting for me. Like it could embrace all of our past and the future we'd already started knitting together between us.

It was a really good hug.

Which only ended when the door at the top of the steps opened and we both turned, still grinning foolishly at each other.

"Why are you causing a scene outside my house?" my sister Norah demanded, in the same slightly scandalized, authoritative tone I'd heard her use on her university students when they asked stupid questions. "Do you want someone to call the cops?"

"Oh," I said, gazing up at her, and then back down at the ring, cold and resplendent on my hand. "Um." It was like I looked at the ring and became hypnotized. I knew the appropriate words to use but couldn't seem to form them on my tongue. I looked at Lucas for help.

He seemed to glow as he helped me to my feet.

"Courtney and I are getting married," he told Norah, his voice sounding almost formal. I felt myself flush. Married was such an adult word. It carried so much weight.

"Well," Norah said, her voice much smoother. Maybe even pleased. "That's wonderful news." She smiled, and then looked at me. "And about time, if you ask me."

"No one did," I muttered, immediately reduced to behaving like a child. It took exactly one sentence from my bossy big sister. But Lucas squeezed my hand to keep me quiet, and we walked inside.

Norah led the way into her house, calling out the news like the town crier. And suddenly there was commotion, as my family crowded around us in the living room. I was still tugging my arms out of my coat sleeves as my mother rushed up to embrace me.

"I'm so happy!" she cried, and I breathed in deeply as her familiar scent enveloped me, a combination of shampoo and cold cream, and, sometimes, the faintest hint of perfume. "My baby's getting married!"

Across the room, I heard Lucas talking about his secret ring- buying excursions with Norah's husband, Phil.

"I actually cut the piece of string, and measured her rings," Lucas said, demonstrating with his hands and catching my eye as he said it. "Just like they tell you to do it in the magazines."

"So it's a surprise?" Phil asked, smiling in his affable way. "Norah and I picked hers out together."

"It's a complete surprise," I said, fanning out the fingers of my left hand.

Which wasn't entirely true. I would have had to have been asleep in my own relationship not to know how serious it had been for some time, and I hadn't been asleep. But I hadn't known Lucas was involved in clandestine ring measurements of my costume jewelry, either.

"The thing about Courtney is that she doesn't wear any particular jewelry all the time," Lucas said. "She has lots of rings she wears sometimes, but she likes her hands the way they are."

I had never paid much attention to my jewelry preferences, I realized then. But I made my living with my hands. I depended on them and enjoyed them. I wouldn't have known how to go out and choose something that would sit on them ever after. I was kind of amazed that Lucas had given the entire process so much thought.

Norah reached across my mother and picked up my left hand. She held it to the light, turning the whole hand this way and that as if examining it for flaws. It didn't seem to occur to her that it was still connected to my body.

"You'll really have to concentrate on your manicure," she told me in a low voice, as if she didn't wish to embarrass me in front of everyone else. "Your hands are going to be the focus of a lot of attention, and the last thing you need are scraggly, dirty nails."

I tugged my hand out of her grasp. My hands might not be confused for a hand model's, but I thought scraggly and dirty were taking it a step too far.

"Nobody cares about my nails, Norah," I told her, feeling defensive.

"You wouldn't believe the things people care about," she retorted. Because she, as ever, knew best. "I'm going to get the camera."

Norah was about control and had always been this way. When she was a kid, her control issues generally involved the sanctity of her bedroom and her refusal to lend out her toys and dolls. These days she thought a bit bigger.

She insisted that she was not in any way OCD, a laughable assertion, but one she felt comfortable making because, she would tell me, there was a right way and a wrong way to do things. She chose to do things the right way. End of discussion.

The right way meant that we had Family Dinner every weekend at her house, and she always used linen napkins. The right way meant that she and Phil refused to allow a television to pollute their home, preferring to read the newspapers from a selection of Eastern Seaboard cities, peruse the most esoteric literary fiction, and engage in stimulating intellectual debates concerning international politics and ethical dilemmas over fine wine. When Lucas and I expressed our preference for the Sci Fi Channel, anything on Adult Swim, and classic DVD marathons, they both pretended not to hear us. When it was pointed out to them that Eliot, their two- year- old son, might one day face ridicule in school for being completely out of the pop culture loop, Norah actually sneered.

She'd practically raised me, she would say. And last she'd checked, I was doing fine.

Someone had to step in and take charge after Daddy died, she would say with a sniff, and I was the only one who could.

Because she was the only one capable, was the subtext. Mom had been lost in a haze of grief. Our middle sister, Raine, had been acting out since she was a toddler. By the time I was ten, Raine had distinguished her sixteen- yearold self in our prudish Pennsylvania Main Line town by being wilder than all the other bad seeds put together, Mom had parlayed her grief into a continuing life choice rather than a debilitating incident, and Norah already had her first PhD. In bossiness. At eighteen.

"So," Norah said then, studying me across the roast chicken she was serving up onto her best china plates. "You're finally engaged!"

That finally was because Norah felt grown- ups shouldn't (a) date for longer than six months without Knowing Where the Relationship Was Headed, (b) live together under any circumstances before marriage because They Still Don't Buy the Milk No Matter How Feminist It Might Be to Give It Away for Free, and You Know How Liberal I Am, Courtney, and (c) continue to date after a year without being engaged, because You Either Know or You Don't. She and Phil got engaged on their first anniversary, married on their second anniversary, and that, as she'd told me many times, was the secret to their happiness. No "waffling," as she put it. The fact that Lucas and I had been together for three years without so much as a shared bank account confused and annoyed her.

I thought that the fact Lucas chose to attend these weekly dinners with me was proof of love far above and beyond the gorgeous ring he'd just put on my finger. The ring was the prettiest thing I'd ever seen, but Family Dinners were tests of strength and will. Norah maintained a constantly updated spreadsheet of checks and balances, slights and alliances, and was always waiting to pounce. I assumed this spreadsheet existed only in her mind, but sometimes I suspected the existence of a hard copy, too.

"I'm so happy for you," Mom was saying. "I remember what it was like to be young and in love." She beamed at me. "And what fun we'll have, with a wedding to plan!"

"Remember, Courtney," Norah chimed in, frowning at Mom. "Your wedding is about you. Not about some fantasy wedding Mom wished she had with Dad."

Twenty-eight years had passed since my father's death, and yet I winced a little bit at Norah's tone. Lucas reached over to grab hold of me, his hand warm and reassuring on my leg.

My mother didn't respond, a well honed battle tactic, though I could swear I saw her lips tighten.

"You'll have a summer wedding, of course," Norah said, wresting back control of the conversation as she served me a plate of drumsticks and stewed carrots, both of which I hated. But I didn't say anything. About the food, anyway.

"We haven't made any plans, Norah," I told her. "We got engaged fifteen minutes ago." Lucas squeezed my leg a little bit, and I felt a rush of giddiness. Engaged. We were engaged. To be married.

"It's never too early to start making plans," Norah said, frowning slightly.

When she got engaged, if I remembered correctly, she'd allowed seven point three minutes for weeping and excitement, and had then proceeded to book her venue, photographer, and caterer before the end of the day. Because Nora was nothing if not prepared.

"Eliot can be your flower boy," Norah continued, handing out plates to Mom and Phil. "Or your ring-bearer. It's up to you, of course."

I felt the strangest urge to apologize for the possibility that I might want control over my own wedding. But then, hers had turned out to be a disaster, despite the kind of planning that would have done Napoleon proud.

"Everyone will tell you that the process is scary, or stressful," Mom told me. "But I think you can decide how it will be. There's such a thing as too much planning, you know." It was a gentle dig, but Norah stiffened.

"Not everyone is satisfied with stopping by the courthouse on their way home from work," Norah sniped right back at our mother.

"Everyone is not you, Norah," Mom said in the even tone she used when she wanted to prevent an escalation.

"Mom, please," Norah said crossly. "Courtney doesn't want to elope!"

"I don't know what I want to do," I offered up into the tension. "I guess Lucas and I are going to have to think about it."

"But I'm betting you're not going to elope," Norah retorted-more to her plate than anything, and, obviously, to make sure she got the last word. We all knew better than to engage.

"While you're thinking about it, the first thing to plan is the engagement party," Mom said, using a getting-down-to-business tone. "Lucas, you'll have to invite your parents to come down." She made it sound as if the party was already planned, and happening the following week.

"I can't have any parties until the season's over," I told her, after sharing a dazed look with Lucas. The season in question was not winter, which was likely endless, but the more finite Philadelphia Second Symphony Orchestra concert season, which finished in late May.

"Then we'll do it this summer," Mom replied. "How about July?"

I couldn't answer her for a moment. An hour ago I'd been skating on Germantown Avenue with my boyfriend. Now I was discussing my engagement party and feelings on elopement. I wasn't sure I could keep up with the life shift.

"Wow," I said, feeling panicky. "I mean, this is really nice of you, but I'm not sure we ..."

"I would be thrilled to throw it for you," Mom said, inclining her head at me as if that settled the matter.

"Um, great," I said. "Thanks." But something occurred to me. "Is the engagement party where we all sit around and play those weird games with the ribbons? Because I don't think I can handle that. With a straight face."


Excerpted from Names My Sisters Call Me by Megan Crane Copyright © 2008 by Megan Crane. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Megan Crane grew up in New Jersey, graduated from Vassar, and got her MA and PhD in literature from the University of York in England. She currently lives in Los Angeles. Visit her website at www.megancrane.com.

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Names My Sisters Call Me 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Meet Courtney, Norah and Raine, the three Cassel sisters. Courtney recently got engaged to Lucas and wanted to share her engagement with her entire family, including her estranged sister Raine. This one decision will turn Courtney's world around will force her to finally see what has been in front of her face her entire life. I really enjoyed this book. It spoke about different types of love and after the love ends, it can stay with us. Sometimes allowing us to remain rooted in the past - provoking the 'what if' question or pushing us forward to the person we are supposed to be. I plan to read more of Ms. Crane's book. Highly recommended.
Ms_Marisa2013 More than 1 year ago
It was good, but I wasn't impressed by the story.
coffeemama More than 1 year ago
I liked this book a lot
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Courtney¿s relationship with both of her sisters seemed very real and messy, which is why I really liked the book. The people that are the closest to us can often be the most difficult to relate to. One of Courtney¿s sisters, Norah, has lived by her throughout her life. Courtney has idolized her other sister, Raine, from a distance. The author explores more than just the relationships among the sisters. Megan Crane also delves into the challenge Courtney faces when she meets her first love again after six years without seeing him. Even though she has a wonderful man, her fiancé, in her life right now, she still feels drawn to her first love. Her emotional conflict over the two men is overwhelming for her. Readers are kept on edge wondering what Courtney will decide to do about her dilemma. Even after we have it figured out what she decides, the story compels us to keep reading. I do not personally have any sisters but this book makes me wish I did.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Small energetic she-wolf pup. Her fur is a nice creamy peachish. Pretty Green eyes. Red eyes if shes REALLY angry. She is loyal nice and trying to fit in with cats.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I know this may sound silly, but I almost didn't read this book because one of the character's names is spelled Norah. I really dislike my name being spelled that way. What is the extra 'h' for? Huh? Every time I read this name, I heard 'Nor-RAH! Like a little cheer at the end of the 'Nor' - I know, you probably can't understand where I'm coming from with this, but reading your own names spelled WRONG can be a bit disheartening, okay? So I finally decided to forge ahead despite the name-spelling travesty and... Oh, there's one other thing - you already know my name and I also have two sisters, but our birth order is different - I'm the middle sister (that probably my real problem, right?)... I decided to read this book to see If I could get an 'insider's' view on the subject of sisterhood - I wondered if I could get a better understanding of what it's like to be the 'oldest' and the 'youngest' and Megan Crane delved a bit into the psychology behind sisterhood and gave some rare glimpses into what it's like to perceive yourself in one of these roles. This story begins on the day that the youngest sister, Courtney, gets engaged. Her and her intended are on their way to a regular family Sunday dinner at big sister (wait for it!) Norah's house - when Lucas drops to his knees in the snow (how romantic!) and proposes to Courtney. After she gives her consent and they stumble inside to her family, somehow the subject of conversation goes from the up-coming nuptials to the disgraceful way that middle sister Raine conducted herself at Norah's (sigh) wedding six years before. Megan Crane is gifted at telling the story not only from Courtney's perspective, but she is adept at giving the other sisters perspectives as well, flawed though they might be. The reason for all the hub-bub at the family dinner concerns Courtney's decision to invite Raine to her wedding. Norah (see, you can get used to it after a while) is decidedly upset at the prospect. She just can't understand what she sees as Courtney's betrayal at reaching out to Raine. The story gets thicker when we discover that Courtney's old boy-friend Matt is also Raine's best friend and accompanied her when she fled from the wedding and no one has heard from her since. Well, we find out that someone has in fact been keeping in touch with Raine and that discovery leaves both Norah and Courtney feeling slighted. Courtney decides to accompany Luke on a business trip to San Francisco - this is the city that Raine escaped to following that fateful day at Norah's wedding. Not only does Courtney see her sister Raine, but it seems that Matt is living with her! Just seeing him brings back a whole lot of Courtney's insecurities about the past and Raine is treating her like, well, like a little sister. As Courtney is about to leave the legendary city, questions abound - will Raine attend her wedding? If she does, will Raine & Norah go for each other's throats? And what about Matt, are Courtney's feelings for him starting to resurface? What will that mean for her and Luke? Will there even be a wedding?? Megan Crane delivers the answers and gives readers an in-depth look at sisterhood and their different perspectives. This was a great read (despite the name thing) and a well thought out story - I look forward to reading more from this author.