Curtis Sittenfeld: ‘Sisterland’

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to be a twin or to be psychic, this book will cross both questions off your list. Daisy (who changes her name to Kate) and Violet are twin sisters born with psychic abilities. One sister flaunts them while the other hides them. The combo of this fun idea for a novel and author Curtis Sittenfeld’s aptitude for writing books that are as hard to put down as an ice cream cone on a hot day, make Sisterland a perfect beach read. I was seriously looking for some fast-paced, enjoyable books to read this summer, (I’m aware that I do not always read the most “fun” books) and Sittenfeld had my back.

What happens when your marriage dynamic becomes the primary relationship in your life? Does your family take the back seat? This is the question after Kate gets married and has two children. And what happens when something that defines you is not believed or respected by your spouse? Kate’s psychic abilities come into the forefront after years of ignoring them when her sister Vi makes a prediction that there will be an earthquake in St. Louis, where they live. This becomes the focal point of the book, and the believers are separated from the non-believers (Kate’s own husband being one of them).

What I like about Sittenfeld is that despite writing about exciting topics that are fun for the reader to unravel (I also read her books Prep and American Wife), she doesn’t sugar coat her stories. She makes sure to imagine the gritty details, and I was surprised by the ending of this book, which was darker than I was expecting.

I found the sibling dynamic of Kate and Vi interesting because not only are they twins, but they’re basically each other’s only real friend for much of their somewhat dreary childhood. And when they out themselves as psychic, they also get ostracized for being “witches.” I don’t have a twin, or a sister, and like many people, I wonder what it would have been like to share a bedroom growing up and to have someone to commiserate with during those tough adolescent years.

But Kate and Vi, like most of us, have a more complicated relationship than that. Kate makes conservative decisions and tries her best to fit in at college. Vi drops out of college, and moves back to their hometown. Kate gets married, has kids, and then leaves her job (which is not her most obvious move, and one that she struggles with as much as any other mother), while Vi works as a psychic, does not get married and eventually starts dating a woman. Through all of their life changes, they stay close in the wordless way that it seems twins do–especially twins with psychic abilities. But they go long stretches without much interaction.

Vi’s earthquake prediction ultimately brings them and their father, and really the whole city together for better or worse as they wait to find out if it’s true, deal with the media that’s descended on St. Louis and pray for it to all be over.

Has anyone else read this book yet? What did you think?

Gigglers: I’m not going to seek out the newest hardcovers and tell you whether or not to buy them. And while not the Sunday Review, this Sunday blog will explore my brilliant and fascinating thoughts about books. Please use the comments section to share your own thoughts on this book, or whatever you’re reading.

Image via Featured image from Barnes&Noble

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