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The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen

The Bird Sisters by Rebecca RasmussenThere seems to be quite a buzz surrounding the impending publication of Rebecca Rasmussen’s debut novel The Bird Sisters, which is due to hit the shelves on April 12th 2011. I was therefore keen to get hold of a review copy; Rebecca kindly responded promptly to my request, and after reading it, I have to say I was mightily impressed.

I read and review a rather eclectic mix of styles and genres, and that variety is a great part of the joy of reading for me, but it is novels such as this one, that really have the power to reach inside you and pluck those emotional strings that are my true favourites.

We aren’t far into 2011 as I write this, and I’m lucky enough to have already read some excellent books, but I have to say if I read a better one than this in what remains of the year, then it is going to have to be a phenomenal piece of work.

Read on for a full review…

-- The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen a Review by Des Greene --

Milly and Twiss, the eponymous Bird Sisters of the book’s title, are living out their twilight years in the decaying clapboard house that they grew up in, close to the small Wisconsin town of Spring Green. Nowadays struggling even to summon enough energy to look after the injured birds for which the two are locally famous, they are left to reminisce over the events of their lives; events which led them from a youth where anything seemed possible, to an old age carrying only the fear of which of them might be the first to go.

In a sensitive depiction of growing up and growing old, we are transported back into the lives of Milly and Twiss, their extended family and surrounding neighbours. The characters are built out slowly, it feels as though you are getting to know them little-by-little as the novel progresses; luckily this is never allowed to descend into the syrupy sweet and sentimental, charming as some of the characters are, we still get all the human faults, failings and most importantly to the plot, the ultimately tragic secrets that end up profoundly affecting their lives.

Mind you, failings or not, I found it impossible not to love Twiss, a contrary, rebellious tomboy-ish creation that put me in mind of how Scout Finch might possibly have grown up. She is not alone in inspiring affection though, as even the more minor characters are used to great effect throughout.

The pastoral backdrop of meadows, farmland and the sometimes benevolent, sometimes fearsome Wisconsin River, were an additional layer of enjoyment for a lover of the countryside such as myself. Never having visited Wisconsin, I found this scenery described in such a way that I could get an almost visual sense of the surroundings.

Structurally the novel also has some very clever touches, with its multiple layers of revelation and the ways in which the author teases and plays with the reader. Several times I had given up on threads of the story ever being satisfactorily resolved, only for them to finally pop back into the fray allowing my mental penny to drop.

Ultimately, the plot of this carefully constructed, thoughtful, and emotionally engaging book, bases itself around the type of events that might befall anyone in the course of a lifetime; so please don’t buy it expecting monumental events and gripping action. What it is though, is a beautifully written, charming, at times funny but ultimately rather sad little jewel of a story, which I strongly urge you to read for yourself.

Verdict? One of those where you don’t want to reach the last page.

Already read The Bird Sisters? What did you think of it? Please post a comment below, Novel Suggestions is always keen to hear your opinions.

Novel Suggestions only provides fiction book reviews of books that we personally recommend. We don’t spend our valuable time writing reviews of books which we feel would be a waste of your valuable time!


  1. This is such a wonderful book review of The Bird Sisters, and believe me, I will treasure it always. Thank you so much for reading the book and for loving it. This positively makes me shine this afternoon. :)

    1. Des says:

      Hi Rebecca, you are most welcome. I suppose you can tell I enjoyed it just a little!
      Anyway, thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, and I sincerely hope it achieves the success it deserves.

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