Today is launch day (flight day?) for Rebecca Rasmussen’s debut novel, The Bird Sisters.
The story of The Bird Sisters is inspired by Rasmussen’s grandmother, who felt a loneliness early in life, with the death of her parents and a tenuous relationship with her sister. The author reimagines the sisters’ relationship in the tale of Milly and Twiss, providing she says “proof of love” to her grandmother. It’s also a reminder to Rasmussen (and the reader!) that “home doesn’t always translate to four sturdy white walls,” and that home truly is where the heart is.
Here’s the publisher’s synopsis:
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.
And a little tease from page 2, as Milly admits that the company of a stranger may be preferable to the uneventful passage of time that she and Twiss have settled into. The last sentence, her response to the lost tourist, as she points to the unmarked spot on the map, is especially telling:
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.
Want to read more? The Bird Sisters is on shelves today; pick up a copy for yourself, then pop over to my Giveaways page to enter to win a “book club in a box” for your reading group — up to ten copies of the novel, plus a Skype chat with Rebecca Rasmussen.