Wednesday, June 22, 2011

3 Willows by Ann Brashares

Okay, so I know it wasn't the greatest movie of all time, but six years ago I sat in a darkened theater, my wife and daughters beside me and fell in love with Tibby, Carmine, Lena, and of course, Bridget, the four extraordinary young women that comprise the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.  I can't remember if I knew before going to the movie that it was based on a book, but after seeing that summer compressed into 119 minutes, I knew I had to read the book.  While I easily connected with each of the four wearers of the Traveling Pants, I was particularly rivetted by Tibby's thread and the heart wrenching storyline that was Bailey. I loved these books so much, that I have acquired them all on CD and have been thru them several times.

So what does all that have to do with 3 Willows? Well, it provides a bit of context for my feelings about it for one.  It's entirely possible that I am simply biased... but I really don't think so.  The original series had a number of problems (particularly with the timelines of the various story arcs) that are easy to let go of because of the engrossing plotlines, the relatable characters, and the underlying friendships that bind the whole thing together. 3 Willows, on the other hand gets no such pass (at least not by me), primarily because the plot lines are less immediate, the characters are less relatable, and the basic premise of the book doesn't realistically work to unite Ama, Jo, and Polly.

Ann comes at 3 Willows differently than she did Sisterhood.  In Sisterhood, the girls had been best friends, practically since birth.  So when they begin to spend their summers apart, they have this deep well of support to draw from.  They share their trials and tribulations through emails, letters, phone calls, and of course, the pants, all of which serves to keep them united even through the separation.  In 3 Willows, however, we start out with the premise that the three girls have drifted apart, so when they spend the summer separated, it doesn't make much sense that they would somehow grow closer.  Each girl deals with her problem entirely on her own, and although there is some communication between the three, it seems far fetched to think that in the end their friendship would grow.

Don't get me wrong, this book isn't all bad, but it's NOT the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.  Ann has connected this new series to the old by having the girls attend the same high school as the original Sisterhood. There are some cameo appearances from some of the characters in the original books and I really enjoyed seeing them thru new eyes.

I have listened to a couple of interviews with Ann in which she states that she intends to write more about Ama, Jo, and Polly and while I will likely read them at some point, I won't be waiting with bated breath for their publishing.


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