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Three Girls and Their Brother


Three Girls and Their Brother

“Now that it’s all over, everybody is saying it was
the picture, that stupid picture was behind every disaster that
would eventually befall my redheaded sisters.” So begins
Theresa Rebeck’s poised fiction debut, a story of the
pitfalls and pressures of modern-day celebrity. When famed literary
critic Leo Heller’s beautiful granddaughters are chosen for a
photo shoot for The New Yorker, no one could have known
what heights (and havoc) would follow.

Daria, Polly and Amelia Heller have lived rather typical lives as
young high school students in Brooklyn, NY. After the photo shoot
with esteemed photographer Helmet Lang, they find themselves
catapulted into the dizzying world of New York celebrity. That one
seemingly benign photo crowned them the “It Girls” for
the 21st century, and their lives were never the same.

The two older sisters seized upon the opportunity as a lifeline out
of a dysfunctional home with little prospects. Amelia, the youngest
sister at 14, is the least impressed by it all but finds herself
kept out of school and in the chicest clubs, hanging out with movie
stars and being offered all the excesses of adult success. And what
of their poor brother, Philip? Poor unbalanced Philip finds their
new life untenable. Their former beauty queen mother, so hungry for
fame herself, is willing to abandon her only son in order for her
girls to succeed, considering it collateral damage. After the
picture comes the agent and then the lifestyle, the nightlife, the
offers of acting parts and, ultimately, the inevitable

Rebeck --- known for plays such as the Pulitzer Prize-nominated
Omnium Gatherum, The Scene and her recent Broadway debut,
Mauritius --- has turned her keen eye to the modern-day
media celebrity. Whether we want to or not, we’re all well
aware of the ups and downs of the Britneys and Lindsays of our
ever-present, celebrity-loving culture. Starlets and heiresses and
their hijinx have bounded off the gossip pages and have become
mainstream news. Try as you might to ignore it, they are
everywhere. According to her publisher, Rebeck got the inspiration
to write THREE GIRLS AND THEIR BROTHER after seeing a photo of the
Hilton sisters. She began thinking, “What would happen if an
ordinary family became the focus of a ravenous media? How would it
change them?” In this, her first novel, she gets to explore
the ever-fickle nature of fame and why it’s so important to
people today.

THREE GIRLS AND THEIR BROTHER takes a more realistic and cautionary
look at the perils of fame. It doesn’t glorify or sugarcoat
the ravages of too-sudden recognition, or the celebrity we witness
so often today --- the celebrity that comes with being famous for
fame’s sake. Young girls with no discernable skills or talent
leap off Page Six and into the newspapers and magazines with equal
weight given to politicians or other newsmakers. Their one ability
might just be the art of having your photo taken and often. Or
releasing your so-called “private” sex tape into the
right hands. Or perhaps their brushes with the law, instead of
vilifying them, serve to make them even more renowned. Rebeck also
examines the parents’ role in all of this. When a mom or dad
is so ambitious themselves, willing to sacrifice their
child’s safety or well-being in order to reach dizzying
heights of fame, how can that child be expected to grow up in a
well-adjusted manner? What examples are being set for them?

Told from four different points of view --- first Philip and then
each of the three sisters --- Rebeck’s talent shines as she
casts an acerbic eye on the capricious lifestyle the Heller family
adopts, at the expense of one of their own. The reader sympathizes
a little with each character, but none are truly likable, which
perhaps best illustrates the author’s point: these days,
ordinary people devoid of talent and who aren’t even very
nice or decent become ridiculously famous for no good reason. And
you can be sure that no good will come of it. But in Rebeck’s
capable hands, the reader can see the harsh realities of modern-day
celebrity, from a comfortable distance, as they breathe a sigh of
relief that this is not their family.

Reviewed by Bronwyn Miller on January 23, 2011

Three Girls and Their Brother
by Theresa Rebeck

  • Publication Date: April 8, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Crown
  • ISBN-10: 030739414X
  • ISBN-13: 9780307394149