Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Sister of the Bride

Sister of the Bride. Beverly Cleary. 1963. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: I guess this is just one of those days, thought Barbara MacLane on her way home from school one bright afternoon late in April. She was not alone. She was walking beside a boy, a very tall boy, but their thoughts were like those famous parallel lines that lie in the same plane but never meet.

Premise/plot: Barbara, a junior in high school, is always playing catch up with her older sister, Rosemary, who is a freshman in college. One day Barbara gets a phone call from her sister. Can she keep a secret?!?! She's coming home that weekend--PLEASE TELL MOM NOT TO SERVE MEAT LOAF--and by the way, I'M GETTING MARRIED. Barbara has to keep the secret a day or two. It won't be easy.

It doesn't take Barbara long to get swept up, up, and away in a daydreaming frenzy. She's thinking about Rosemary's wedding--the dress, the flowers, the reception, the cake, the attendants. Will Rosemary's dress one day be her own?! Will she get to help choose her sister's dress? Will she be the maid of honor or a bridesmaid? What will her dress look like? Will the reception be at their house or at a club? Will her sister wear a dress with a long veil and a cathedral train?

But she's also thinking about her own wedding. If she does everything two years--roughly--behind Rosemary, should she focus on picking out her would-be-groom this year? When does she need to start going steady with a guy if she wants a year-long engagement? How many weeks does she have to meet her one true love? She is certain that she'll fall in love by her sister's wedding.

Will she fall in love with the nice boy with a horrible, horrible nickname of TOOTIE. Or will she fall in love with the boy who gives her rides home from school that expects COOKIES and MILK in return? (His name is Bill). One boy keeps asking her out, the other is content to hang out with her after school. She thinks she knows how she feels about both boys, but does she really?

Gordy, their brother, is NOT daydreaming about the wedding. He has dreams that he's focused on--just not romantic ones. He and two of his friends are going to be the NEXT BIG THING. A trio of folk-singers. He's a bit disappointed that his sister's wedding will not be a gig.

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. For modern readers it might seem an equal blend of SWEET and SILLY. But I enjoyed both elements. The book can serve as a time capsule of sorts for the time in which it was written. In much the same way as FATHER OF THE BRIDE does--both movie versions. (For example, the price of groceries: eight cans of pork and beans for a dollar.)

One of the things I loved most were the family scenes. I loved spending time with this family: the father, mother, Rosemary, Barbara, and Gordy. It felt like a real family--for better or worse. I loved the give and take of it. There's also a mischievous cat that plays an integral role in the novel!

The narrative was also well done.

Greg made the mistake of mentioning the poet E.E. Cummings, who did not use capital letters or punctuation and often ran words together for effect. Of course this provoked an argument from Mr. MacLane. What if every author took it in his head to throw away the rules? What kind of books would we have then? Books that no one would read, that's what we would have. Greg felt that the printer's job was to print the text, not criticize the author's art. (18)
Wouldn't it be nice if people purred as charmingly as cats when they are hungry? Half the quarrels in the world would never take place. (22)
"I would hate to see any daughter of mine throw herself away on someone who approved of writers who did not use punctuation or capitals. This fellow Greg probably likes archy and mehitabel, too." "So do I, Dad," said Barbara. "And the reason there aren't any capitals in archy and mehitabel is that it was supposed to be typed by a cockroach, who couldn't jump on the capital key and a letter key at the same time. The author wasn't just being lazy. He had a good reason." Mr. MacLane chuckled. "A book written by a cockroach is just about what I would expect this fellow to like." (29)
 "And can he afford to pay the orthodontist twenty-five dollars a month?" Mr. MacLane demanded. "Have you thought of that little expense?" "No...I haven't." Crestfallen, Rosemary faltered. How awful thought Barbara as she poured out the dishwater. To want to get married when you are still having your teeth straightened. It must be humiliating to have part of your childhood left over. (43)
Two short years were not much over seven hundred days. Thinking in terms of days instead of years made Barbara feel as if she had not much time left. If she was going to get married in seven hundred days she should think about falling in love, and the sooner the better. Right now. Today. Until this minute she had thought of falling in love as something else that would happen a long time from now. (55)
Barbara watched the umbrella disappear around a bend in the road and, still smiling, she turned and walked into the house. Bill Cunningham. The last boy she had ever expected to notice her. She liked him. She really did. She liked him the way she liked the fizz in ginger ale and the cherry on the sundae. (64)
"It seems to me," said Mr. MacLane, "that ever since Rosemary has been going to the University she has been talking like someone who has read a book on psychology." "I don't know why," puzzled Mrs. MacLane. "She isn't even taking psychology." Barbara had the explanation. "But her roommate is. Millie is majoring in psychology. Rosemary learns a lot from her." "How nice," said Mrs. MacLane dryly. "I am so glad we are to share the benefits of Millie's college education." (69)
Mr. MacLane exhaled a large blue cloud of smoke. "Well, let me tell you something. Someday some mother is going to rebel against her children, and when she does, I will be the first to contribute to a statue in her honor, to be placed downtown in the center of the plaza. A bronze statue. And each year on Mother's Day I shall personally lay a wreat at her feet." (69)
"Millions of footnotes, when all I want to do is think about Greg." (91)
"Your grandfather always liked a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, reminisced Gramma. "He said it stuck to his ribs." Rosemary looked doubtful. "I don't know whether Greg likes oatmeal or not, but I'm sure I could learn to cook it." Barbara admired her sister for tactfully not telling her grandmother she herself detested oatmeal. Or maybe it wasn't tact at all. Maybe it was love. Maybe Rosemary really would learn to cook oatmeal if Greg wanted it. Rosemary, cooking oatmeal of all things, and early in the morning, too. Rosemary, who always had such a hard time waking up. Barbara smiled to herself. She wondered if Rosemary would learn to eat oatmeal to keep Greg company. That would be the test of love, Rosemary eating oatmeal. (96)


© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Paula Vince said...

I bought this one from a library sale once, and enjoyed the family dynamics too. Such a sweet picture of what life must have been like in the 1950's.

Stephanie said...

Beverly Cleary's books for older readers are SO sweet. Her FIFTEEN is one of my favorite books EVER. Jane and Stan's love story is awkward and adorable and still feels so real. I reread it every now and then because it's just so darn charming. I'm glad you enjoyed this one so much! :)