I'm a bit of a nerd when it comes to my summer reading. I like to work on books that I don't have time for during the school year. I focus on works like Atlas Shrugged and The Complete Works of Willian Shakespeare because I have the time and mental capacity to devote to them. But, like most people, I have a soft spot for those summer novels that you can polish off quickly and not really "think about" while you're reading.
I picked up Megan Crane's Names My Sisters Call Me on a whim a few weeks ago. It was on sale (cheap!) and I figured I could stand to read something light and less filling--kind of like a Diet Coke.
The basic premise of the novel is this: Courtney Cassel finds herself engaged to be married to her longtime boyfriend. As her mother eagerly plans her engagement party, Courtney finds herself wanting to bring her family back together. Courtney is the youngest of three daughters and hasn't seen her older sister, Raine, since oldest sister Norah's wedding six years ago.
The characters are pretty mapable. Courtney, the youngest, is driven by her career as a cellist with a symphony in Philadelphia. Norah, the oldest, is Type-A to a T and can't fathom that Courtney wants to reconnect with Raine for any other reason than to hurt her. Raine is the middle child and is a self-described artist. She's a typical wild child who ran away to California after ruining Norah's wedding.
As Courtney reconnects with Raine and tries to bring her family together, she starts to question every decision she's ever made in the last 6 years. She runs from committing to a wedding date and cringes at mentions of wedding dresses--almost annoyingly so. And naturally, there's Courtney's ex-boyfriend to contend with: a longtime family friend she finds living with Raine in California.
In the end, everything wraps up neatly. There was only one sub-plot that truly surprised me, and I felt that's because Crane spent much of the book with Courtney lamenting marriage and commitment while trying to decide which sister annoys her the least, all the while ignoring her mother.
I found myself annoyed with Courtney. For such a driven, career-focused 20-something, she certainly is a whiner. Maybe I let my own life experiences and assumptions interfere in my reading, but I couldn't imagine why a woman so overjoyed at being engaged would suddenly run from setting a wedding date and talking about her past with her fiance. For the love of Peter, Paul, and Mary! You're choosing to marry this man--get with the program! I was practically a child bride (23) and there was nothing I wouldn't talk to Graham about. When I met old friends, when someone I knew way back when chose the news of my engagement to flirt with me, when I stopped for Starbucks...nada. I really can't imagine why Crane chose to make Courtney so fickle about her fiance.
Norah and Raine are pretty stereotypical characters, and as different as they are they're also very similar. Both can't think about anyone other than themselves, and both choose to manipulate Courtney and blame other members of the family for it. By the time the book comes to it's climax, I said, "IT'S ABOUT DAMN TIME, COURTNEY! GAH!!!" because I was so fed up with the character manipulation from the older sisters and the wishy-washy protagonist who just couldn't sit the eff down and talk herself straight.
BUT...of all the readers of this blog, and of all the people who might still pick up this book regardless of my review, only two of them are probably going to agree with me. If you don't have a degree in literature, you're probably not going to be as snobbish about "chick lit" as I am. If you spent your college years building bridges or robots or doing just about anything other than reading the masters of English lit, consider yourself lucky because books haven't been spoiled for you yet!
This book is fun. It's silly, it's an easy beach or plane read, and it's not written for nerds like me. As much as I criticized, I enjoyed it. I liked being able to check out and not focus on theme and metaphors. My summer reading list is full of books that will ask me to do that, but this was just for fun.
Bottom line: Don't expect a life changer, and you'll enjoy this book. It's chick lit at it's finest.