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The Bird Sisters

The Bird Sisters

Written by Rebecca Rasmussen

Narrated by Xe Sands


The Bird Sisters

Written by Rebecca Rasmussen

Narrated by Xe Sands

ratings:
4/5 (18 ratings)
Length:
8 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Mar 19, 2012
ISBN:
9781452676838
Format:
Audiobook

Description

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.

Publisher:
Released:
Mar 19, 2012
ISBN:
9781452676838
Format:
Audiobook

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What people think about The Bird Sisters

4.2
18 ratings / 17 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    A good novel about aged sisters looking back on their lives and the choices and sacrifices they've made.
  • (4/5)
    I thought this was excellent. I agree with some other reviewers: it is incredibly depressing. However, the writing and the story make up for it and there is a current of hope throughout the novel. The surprising twists were enjoyable and the characters (mainly the two sisters) were heartwarming.
  • (3/5)
    Dysfunctional family life ends up with two elderly spinster sisters. A good story, but very, very slow.
  • (3/5)
    I do love the way this writer writes however I did not care for the story at all. It was quite depressing and sad to see two sisters ending up as old spinster maids towards the ends of their lives when things could have been so much better for both of the if only they had made different choices. I also had a hard time with the jumping back in forth in time, hard to tell where the characters were at times. I think that could have been handled better. I don't think I can recommend this but for the writing.
  • (4/5)
    Now in their 70s, Milly and Twiss live in their family home, on a gravel road near the small town of Spring Green, Wisconsin. They are known for miles around as the "bird sisters," for their ability to treat and rehabilitate injured birds, but fewer and fewer people visit them these days. Their days are filled with light chores, walks through the meadow, and sometimes, for Milly, a bit of baking. Mostly they reflect back on lives well lived, but touched by significant events when Milly was 16 and Twiss, 14.Their parents' relationship was already strained when their father had a car accident that prevented him from returning to his job as the local golf pro. Robbed of the one thing that gave him pride and a sense of identity, he isolated himself in the barn, eating meals left for him by one of the girls. Their mother came from a wealthy family, but left those comforts behind when she married. Filled with bitterness, she was unable to comfort her husband. Enter 18-year-old cousin Bett, who comes to stay for the summer, allegedly to improve her health. Her visit leaves an indelible mark on the family and even touches the surrounding community.The central conflict in this debut novel was easy to predict, and there were some plot elements which seemed superfluous, especially the story of a local priest. The book moves fluidly between present and past, which can be confusing at times. The novel succeeds because of Milly and Twiss, richly-developed characters who are always front and center. Milly was considered a beauty in her youth, and gained local recognition for her creative cakes. Twiss was a rebel, fiercely devoted to Milly and her father, but not at all to her mother. Their father, mother, and Bett stand just slightly in the background, very influential but somewhat less tangible. I would have liked to know more about these characters: what were the father and mother like in their early years? How did the father get started with golf, and how did it come to be his life force? And what about Bett's health issues? I also hoped to read more about Twiss and Milly's bird rescue efforts. I realize my interest is greater from having been a bird rescue volunteer, but the title implies this will be given more emphasis than it was.Despite the novel's flaws, I really enjoyed this book. I found myself caught up in the domestic drama, and moved by the relationship between the aging sisters. Rebecca Rasmussen made effective use of foreshadowing, and even so there were some particularly fine "aha moments." The final chapters tugged at my heartstrings, and I was sad to say good-bye to Milly and Twiss.
  • (4/5)
    What a nice book!By nice, I don't mean that nothing unpleasant happens-- that's not true at all. There's lots of very human bad behavior and a chunk of good, old-fashioned bad luck. But the way the characters deal with it, for better or worse, just made me relax and enjoy the book-- with a tissue for the tears, a couple of times.After all, there are two sisters that grow up loving each other very much, through all of their differences.I loved seeing the sisters as teen and as elderly women, and guessing how they got from one life to another. Although the main paths are pointed out over the course of the book, mysteries remain, as they should.Twiss, the rebel tomboy, was the center of the action, and my favorite character, even if I identified more with the sweet and virtuous Milly, always trying to make everyone else happy. It's easy to see how Twiss would end up as one of the bird sisters, never quite fitting into the expected path of marriage and a family, but Milly? How does she end up as the other bird sister? How does Cousin Bett fit into the long term picture?If Twiss is my favorite character, and Milly is the one I identify with, Bett is the most fascinating. She's older than her cousins, and it's unclear what kind of person she is, and why she acts the way she does. Oh, I had my suspicions all along...The Bird Sisters is a book full of interesting characters, and I enjoyed getting to know them.
  • (5/5)
    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!
  • (3/5)
    The Bird Sisters tells the sad, sweet story of Milly and Twiss, sisters born to parents who long for everything they can't have. Their father is a golf pro, a golden boy always looking for the admiration and respect that comes with his talent for golf, until he suddenly loses that talent and has to remake himself. Their mother longs for glamour and style as spends her days trying to make ends meet in a small, backwater town. Milly works to comfort and hold her family together with elaborate and delicious baking projects and Twiss runs wild in the fields around their home, tormenting the snapping turtles. Then one hot and humid summer everything comes to a head with the visit of a sickly but scheming cousin.This debut novel is mostly about the relationship between the sisters, how they know, love and forgive each other everything. Their differences, one longing for domesticity and comfort while the other wants wildness and adventure lead them both to give up everything in the protection of the other. I really enjoyed the close examination of this bond and the juxtaposition of their relationships with their cousin and parents. The story focuses on their early years as remembered by them in old age. I wish there had been more of their middle years, the time when they are actually rescuing birds together. Still, it is beautifully written in an old-fashioned, quiet way and perfumed with a scent of melancholy and sadness.
  • (5/5)
    First of all, I want to thank Beth Hoffman for bringing Rebecca Rasmussen to my attention. Not only is she a completely sweet lady, but she writes a fantastic story.Milly and Twiss are a bit eccentric, but also real, breathing characters that give this story so much charm and make it a joy to read. In spite of the books careful pathing through the story, I found myself unable to put it down until I reached the conclusion - and even then I turned the page whispering "Please, just a few more pages..."The Bird Sisters is a solid example of why books do not need to be filled with over-eager drama or romance to keep the readers attention. Careful building of characters and plot works wonders and Rebecca has done that well here. I do have one little complaint, however. It took a bit for me to get used to the back and forth between the present and the past. There was no real line drawn and I'd find myself thinking that it was the present when it had shifted to the past and vice versa. But, that was a small issue in the light of the story and I figured it out enough to be able to follow the story well.
  • (3/5)
    I was really only intermittently interested in this book, and I don't think I'll remember a thing about it in six weeks. There were some nicely written scenes, but the book as a whole is unremarkable.
  • (4/5)
    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. Summary PW ReviewsQuiet, unhurried, character-driven novel; seems almost from another era. Action unfolds during one day via flashbacks to the episodes that account for the sisters' current lives. Lovely character arcs from debut writer Rebecca Rasmussen. Perhaps a little too low key for many readers.7 out of 10 Recommended to readers who enjoy tales of familial relationships and women growing up in a pre-feminist era.
  • (4/5)
    First off, the cadences in the prose are lovely. I read ten pages, then put Rasmussen's second novel, Evergreen, on my list. Yup, that good.

    The sisters, Millie and Twiss, are wonderful folks to spend time with, as are the other members of the cast. (Except one. I won't say which. Yuck.) This story was about a great many things, which was another of its strengths. For me, the heart of it was the sisters' devotion to each other, despite their enormous differences in personality, predilection and fate. I read this book immediately after finishing We Are Completely Beside Ourselves, also about siblings, but such a different take. It made for an interesting pairing.

    My only qualm with The Bird Sisters was that I found it terribly sad. We know from the start that the sisters are living together in old age, so it's not exactly a surprise when they get there. I suppose I wasn't quite convinced that's how it should have played out. I wished for so much more for them. I'm not addicted to happy endings, but I did want to better understand how they ended up with only each other.

    But read it! There is an abundance of treasure here.
  • (3/5)
    This book is very quiet, and a little slow, but it has some payoff. I liked it, but if my mom hadn't recommended it, I'm not sure I would have stayed with it. I just couldn't figure out where it was going. The end was very bittersweet, though. 3.5 stars.
  • (5/5)
    Milly and Twiss are spinster sisters living in the small town of Spring Green, Wisconsin, in the same house where they grew up. They spent their lives mending birds and the hearts of others, but they could not do the same for themselves. As young girls this was not the way they imagined their lives would end. Milly wanted to marry and have a family; Twiss wanted to travel and see the world, but that was not to be. One fateful summer in 1947 the course of history was set for the sisters, and they could not change their destiny any more than they could stop the sun from rising each morning.Most of the story takes place in 1947. It is told from the present in short chapters alternating with longer chapters in the past. I like this technique as it reinforces the perspective of the sisters as elderly women who have lived their lives and are reflecting back on the past. We know the end and now, layer by layer, the events of that summer are revealed. The accident that cost their father his job as a golf-pro, their priest who ran off to Mexico and cousin Bett who came to visit and turned their world upside down.I didn’t realize what a beautiful and heartbreaking story this would be. In their own way the sisters are as damaged as the birds they try to heal. The characters were beautifully drawn and the vivid descriptions of Spring Green made the town come to life. Although I live in a suburb, I am a small town girl at heart and delighted in the picturesque scenes of nature. Rebecca Rasmussen writes with a wisdom and grace far beyond her years.I had been eagerly anticipating the arrival of my copy of The Bird Sisters for months. When it finally arrived I gazed at the beautiful glossy cover with it’s lovely birds and placed it on the top of my stack of books. I finished it last week and although I’ve moved on to read a few other books, I’m still thinking about it, digesting it and enjoying it in my mind.My favorite character was Twiss and not just because she was ‘the bird lady’. I could relate to her on multiple levels. Like me, she wanted to be an explorer or scientist, but never did; she helped birds instead. She didn’t approve of Mrs. Bettle keeping her parrot in a cage; birds should be free. She never did get to travel and see the Continental Divide, “her memories were her suitcase, and her mind her passport”. She has empathy for both birds and people. She chose the lacy dress to please Adele, “who like every other childless woman in Spring Green had probably always wanted to dress a little girl”, and said “It’s like happiness can be sewn”. Twiss appears to have accepted her life and her choices.This is a wonderful book that has something for everyone. A great selection for readers young and old. Highly recommended and one of my favorites this year.
  • (5/5)
    Read This Book!!Enough Said!Oh ok I’ll add moreYou will love these sisters, so close yet so different Twiss has a smart mouth and always seems to speak her mind and Milly is demure and shy and always puts everyone’s needs above her own no matter the cost to herself. Then there is their parents the mother who dreams of Paris and wanting more than her lot in life has given her, and the father who is a golf pro until “the accident” and can’t play golf anymore and moves to the barn. Then there is cousin Bett who comes for the summer, the summer that changes everything.We first meet the elderly spinster bird sisters Twiss is still a curmudgeon and Milly is still sweet however, once you meet the teen sisters you know something drastic happened that caused these girls to become the elderly never married Bird Sister. Of course Twiss has vowed to be the world’s most interesting spinster and looks on it with a kind of affection (as Milly puts it). But teen Milly has hope of a marriage and children.I can’t say anymore on the story without spoiling it. What I can say is this is a beautifully written book there is no skimming here you will want to read every word, savor it, chew on it and thoroughly enjoy it. You will fall in love with Twiss and Milly smile with them and cry for them. This book has risen to the top of the best reads of the year and it will take a powerful book to knock it off of its perch. Like I said at the beginning Read This Book!Rebecca Rasmussen is a new author to watch out for her writing is so beautiful I look forward to much more from her!5 Stars
  • (5/5)
    Milly and Twiss are two peas in a pod. Uncomfortable as that pod may be, they are sisters for better or worse. Throughout their lives they’ve sought to support the other in their own unique ways, but what happens when a visitor comes for the summer? Could their cousin Bett cause a rift that is beyond repair or will the two ban together? Their love for each other will need to survive the ultimate choice as their family faces an internal battle with lasting consequences. The Bird Sisters is a story of love and the choices we make based on that love.My real question should be, how do I write about a book that’s so carefully crafted with multiple layers and characters that have you thinking about them days after you finish reading it? Not only that, but one that lives up to every bit of expectation and hype that has been circulating? It’s been a delight getting to know author Rebecca Rasmussen over the last few months and in all honesty I worried that the book wouldn’t connect with me, that though well written I would struggle through it in some way. I always worry about this when I know the author before reading their book(s). Well, I had nothing to worry about. Rebecca’s writing is perfectly timed, quiet, but extremely powerful. I’m beyond thrilled and overjoyed to share this gorgeous book with everyone I know for those very reasons.As I mentioned Milly and Twiss’ story is layered through a story rich in personal experiences divided between the two sisters. As the story progresses, first starting in their latter years and then slowly revealed through a time in their youth, you discover how these sisters are twined together by a love that many of us long to share with another person. A love so deep it trumps our personal choices in such a way that would lead you to forgo your own desires to protect the other. Who wouldn’t want another individual in your life that you knew with an absolute certainty would always protect and love you? Though Milly and Twiss have their typical sibling disputes, there’s always that underlying love you can feel. The love of a sister who accepts you for who you are, strengths and faults.It wasn’t only a story about Milly and Twiss, though that’s what it revolved around primarily. Characters like Rollie and Adele, who long for a child of their own, add another layer to the story that I simply adored. Of course there was also the relationship between their parents, Margaret and Joe, which is troubled from the very beginning and continues to be a source of struggle for all involved. And Asa, the love of Milly’s life. Though his character has relatively few appearances throughout the story his impact is no less important and perhaps even more so (I think can still see the blond hairs on the back of his neck glistening in the humid summer afternoon).In a story so powerful, but quiet it’s hard to accurately explain how I feel about The Bird Sisters. Milly and Twiss slowly twine themselves around your heart and never let go. Theirs is a story about making difficult choices, the affects of poorly made choices and how love has the ability to last a lifetime and beyond. It’s also a story about sacrifice, which often goes hand in hand with love. Sacrifices that if made can alter the lives of everyone involved. There is so much more to this story that I’m leaving out and I know should be mentioned, for that I’m sorry. What I can say though is that this is an absolute must read. The Bird Sisters is a story I will long be thinking about and know I’ll be recommending for a long time to come.
  • (5/5)
    The Bird Sisters tells a tale of how the people you love the most in the world are the ones who can most surely destroy you. This is the summer of 1947, when Milly and Twiss try to stitch their parents’ relationship back together again, when their local priest runs off to gamble Church funds in Mexico, when their reckless cousin Bett comes to visit. It is also the summer when their young lives fall apart. The Bird Sisters weaves visual poetry with fierce and lovely language, like young Bett, sticking her pale arms deep into a beehive and walking away unstung, or a starling, assumed dead, suddenly launching itself out a front door into freedom. Witty and wise, with a multilayered plot and characters so real you’ll want to invite them to dinner, The Bird Sisters will both enchant and haunt you. A gorgeous, one-of-a-kind, riveting read.