The willing surrender of something valued to a god, a person or principal is said to be the greatest act of humanity. But is it? What is the motivation behind sacrifice? Is it truly to honor the entity with respect, adoration and obedience? Or is there a hidden benefit expected by or hoped for? What about sacrifices in our daily lives—giving up those prized pleasures, hopes and dreams for the betterment of someone or something else. What right do people, principles or gods have in demanding sacrifices anyway? We’ll discuss these and other questions about sacrifice as a literary theme this week in #litchat.
Joining us as guest host of #litchat on Friday, July 12, is Rebecca Rasmussen, whose debut novel, The Bird Sisters, explores the personal sacrifices we make for those we love.
In The Bird Sisters, two spinster sisters, Milly and Twiss, live together in the Wisconsin farmhouse where they grew up. The two elderly sisters drift in and out of the present and back to that golden time of father worship and familial honor. They have no vocation to speak of, unless you count nursing injured birds back to life. When a mother and daughter bring an injured goldfinch to “the bird sisters,” as they’re known in their farming community, it takes only an innocent slip of the tongue and the responding harsh remark to trigger the landslide of memories that drives the story to its bittersweet conclusion. Rasmussen voices the two elderly sisters with wizened simplicity and character restraint, two elements that save the story from slipping into the pool of novels about worlds crumbling when feet of clay are revealed.
About Rebecca Rasmussen:
I live in St. Louis, Missouri with my husband and daughter, where I teach writing and literature at Fontbonne University. In addition to writing, I’m reading some wonderful nonfiction books these days (My Life in France by Julia Child is my favorite of the bunch!) and I’m training for a half-marathon this fall. I also love to bake pies. Raspberry. Blueberry. Peach. Yum. This is only miraculous because I essentially grew up in a microwave. Because of this, I am interested in all things old and outdated. I love to think about hope chests and house dresses. Sideboards are big ones, too. At the end of the day, though, when it’s 105 outside in St. Louis, I’m pretty thankful for my thermal windows and air conditioning. Still…I’m always on the brink of trying to put up jam like my great grandmother used to do.
Follow Rebecca Rasmussen on Twitter: @thebirdsisters