Three sisters, Cordy (Cordelia), Bean (Bianca) and Rose (Rosalind), who were brought up by parents ensconced in the world of academia, with the father, in particular, speaking to them using quoted verse from Shakespeare, and a mother whose mind wandered at times, leaving them adrift and who thought any reading material was as good as the next, so long as it was reading, have gone their separate ways in adulthood, only to be returned to their parent’s home in Barnwell, Ohio, drawn by different reasons of escape but using their mom’s sudden grave illness as an excuse to draw them there.
Although related, the prescribed theory that you can pick your friends but not your relatives is the doctrine they follow. Their dynamic does not, at first, seem close, nor do they even seem to like each other much. They are bound by familial love, memories, and history. They are united in the sibling rivalry they share. Each has a personality different from the other, yet they are very much the same. Each, in the years that separated them, has made some really irresponsible choices, even the most clear-headed of them, Cordy, has allowed her insecurity to prevent her from growing up and spreading her wings. They are back in their childhood home, trying to mend some fences and perhaps create new ones, as they grow into their new selves.
Each, burdened with a private grief, returns to their childhood roles with ease. Rose, the martyr, is the mothering type. She is the oldest and is engaged to be married. She is perhaps best described as a control freak who enjoys hovering, organizing and suffering to keep her burdensome family operating smoothly. She feels as if the world revolves safely only when she is in charge. They love her for it and count on her.
Cordy, the hippy, the very likeable youngest, a wanderer with no plans, finds herself to be an unwed pregnant soon-to-be mother, with no father in sight that she wishes to acknowledge.
Bean, the materialist, has had sticky fingers and a checkered past of thievery and debauchery. Her life could be best described, possibly, as one of moral turpitude. None of the girls seem remotely aware of the simple fact that wherever they go, wherever they run, they take “themselves” with them. In essence, they really can’t run away, they can only run toward who they are, truly. Their decisions to return home will profoundly affect their lives as they go forward.
Barnwell, Ohio, a wholly made up town, is described as either a place where dreams are made and come true, a perfect place to live, nirvana, an escape from the fast pace of city life, or a dull place to wither, a dead end, depending on who is doing the describing.
The story is a picture perfect example of sibling rivalry, how it works and what is behind it. Each girl thinks the other is the favorite. Each thinks she understands the other’s behavior, but not one really analyzes or understands their own. They act according to their own selfish desires, pleasing themselves first, regardless of what is going on around them or who might be hurt in the process of their shenanigans. It takes disasters of major proportions to shock them into the real world. They behave as if they are blissfully unaware of all the pressures of life, or rather they slough them off like a second skin, with the exception of Rose, who believes she has to bear the weight of her own and her family’s needs. She believes she is the center around which her family revolves.
The main drawback to the novel is its fairy tale quality. Everything serendipitously works out for everyone and life goes on in a contrived way. No problem seems insurmountable. They cheat death, debt, criminality, unwed motherhood, and anything else that comes their way . Nothing is an issue that is insurmountable. They all work out their problems in a short space of time, with Rose, making the biggest leap of all, to freedom and independence.
The title is based loosely on Shakespeare’s Three Witches or Weird Sisters, from Macbeth, (The Three Witches represent darkness, chaos, and conflict, while their role is as agents and witnesses).
Each sister is seeking the kind of unconditional love their parents have, but they come to realize, that, that kind of a relationship involves sacrifice and compromise. Everyone has unfulfilled dreams and everyone has to decide for themselves what it is they truly want, what they are truly searching for and what is truly important as the end goal. The search for our “self” is ongoing. The book will prompt the reader to ask if they have found what they were looking for in life, or have they settled for less, in order to achieve greater order or happiness?