Ethan's great aunts, Mercy, Prudence, and Grace, are the comic relief of the novel, and some of our favorite characters, even if we can't tell them apart yet. We're not alone, though: "Everyone in town called them the Sisters, like they were a single entity, which in a way they were […] And they were even crazier than they were old" (9.12.60).
Ethan takes the Sisters to church every Saturday, but it never goes smoothly. They're always up to some hilarious hijinks that just have to be seen to be believed. Whether it's Aunt Grace almost killing Aunt Prudence's Yorkie, Aunt Mercy thinking there are only eleven states (only the Confederate states really count), or Aunt Prudence cleaning a baby squirrel's private parts with a Q-tip, there is never a dull moment in their household.
These are the type of ladies who call the Civil War "The War of Northern Aggression." Despite this prejudice, they're mostly harmless, and it's hard not to just laugh at their Southern stubbornness.
They're not just comic relief, though. They also serve as a link to the past, educating Ethan on his ancestors and his heritage. They show Ethan his family tree and tell him about the existence of Ethan Carter Wate, who had pretty much been stricken from family record for being a deserter.
One last thing: these women are old enough to need a caretaker, Thelma. To be honest, we're surprised Thelma can handle all three women at once for six-and-a-half days a week. Ethan says she resembles Dolly Parton—but can Thelma play "9 to 5" on her fingernails?