Prepare to fall in love with Rasmussen's characters in this wonderful novel about small-town life in Spring Green, Wisconsin. At the heart of the story are two sisters who have devoted their lives to each other.
In a novel that deftly moves back and forth in time, Rasmussen introduces us to two versions of the sisters: as they were in their teens and as they are as elderly ladies.
Twiss, who is adventurous and mischievous, wants to be an explorer and a scientist. Good as gold, Milly, wants to get married and have children. Things do not exactly go as planned, especially since they have an eccentric father and a stoic mother.
After losing his golf prowess, Milly and Twiss' father is never quite the same. He loses his job as golf instructor and his passion for life. He and the girls' mother never officially separate, yet he takes up residence in the barn, hanging his silk shirts from the rafters.
Rasmussen enlivens a heartbreaking situation with a quirky cast of characters. Spring Green is populated with people like lonely Mrs. Bettle whose only love is her pet parrot and nosy and fearless Bett who talks non-stop about her life in Dead Water, Wisconsin.
We also find characters like Father Rice who leaves his congregation to take a trip to Mexico and have a margarita. The bird sisters and the town work tirelessly to help him return when he runs into trouble.
For Father Rice, Twiss creates her happiness tonic which she tries to sell at the fair. Twiss arrives in a lacy dress in order to prove how much the tonic can transform a person. Twiss normally hates dresses.
What I like best about this novel is the terrific, comic scenes which also offer irony. When Margaret wins a bean-counting contest at the fair, her prize is a trip in a small airplane.
The pilot asks her where she lives so he can fly over her house and barn. For Margaret, its a chance to fly over her life. Significantly, right after she flies over life, she comes to some startling revelations.
As humorous as it is, the novel is also a deeply moving testament to the strength of sisterhood.