The four Penderwick sisters, Rosalind (age 12), Skye (11), Jane (10), and Batty (4), spend their summer with their widowed father and dog Hound in a cottage on the fancy Arundel estate. Here they meet 11 year old Jeffery, who lives in the estate mansion with his cold and snobby mother, Mrs. Tifton. The girl's friendship with Jeffery and Rosalind's crush on the 18 year-old gardener Cagney tie a series of vignettes into a story.
While listening to The Penderwicks, I couldn't help thinking of another story about four sisters and their friendship with the rich and lonely boy next-door. The high-standard comparison I found myself making with Little Women is what left me ultimately dissatisfied with The Penderwicks. For the Penderwick sisters, there are never any consequences or lessons learned, even though they make the same mistakes over and over again. (After about the fiftieth time of them getting worried about the fate of Jeffery because of some mess they've made, I found myself getting bored). The adult figures, even Cagney, remain one-dimensional up to the long, dragged-out end.
This book may not have seemed so long if I had read it rather than listened to it, but really I found the reading very well done. The narrator characterized each sister so well that after just a few minutes of listening I was able to tell each one apart.
This book got wonderful reviews and a National Book Award, but I found it merely okay.