Curtis Sittenfeld is best known for Prep, her pitch-perfect novel of high school angst, but she is no one-trick pony. She explored questions of love in The Man of My Dreams and gave Laura Bush a fascinating fictionalized life in American Wife. With Sisterland, Sittenfeld introduces us to twin sisters Kate and Violet, bound by a complicated childhood, conflicted friendship and—most importantly—psychic abilities.
Kate and Vi discovered that they had “senses” at an early age, but while Vi embraced and nurtured her premonitions, Kate repressed them. Kate wanted love, marriage and a conventional life, while Vi was always happy to live more on the fringes. When we meet them in their 30s, Kate has the family she always wanted, complete with devoted husband Jeremy and adorable young children Rosie and Owen. Vi is working as a psychic medium and gains international attention when she predicts that a massive earthquake will soon devastate their hometown of St. Louis. It sounds like a strange premise—and it is—but Sittenfeld’s writing is so nuanced, true-to-life and readable, it almost doesn’t matter what she’s writing about.
Kate is our not-quite-reliable narrator, moving back and forth through time to the girls’ childhood with a depressed, reclusive mother and a quiet, passive father; to college, where Kate excels and Violet flounders; and to the present day, where the twins lead vastly different lives, yet are bound by their shared past and visions of the future. As the date of the earthquake approaches, both sisters make decisions that will change their lives forever.
In Sisterland, Sittenfeld plays with our ideas of premonition and intuition and questions the reliability of our perception of current events and memories of the past. Do we see things as they are, or as we want them to be? Do we have control over our lives, or are we destined to follow a certain course? Are things ever as they seem?
The answers, of course, are complicated, and while the plot occasionally dips into melodrama, Sittenfeld never loses control. Sisterland is another Sittenfeld novel to savor, ponder and recommend to friends.Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.
Identical twins Kate and Vi (Violet) were born with scattershot psychic abilities. As grown women, living wildly divergent lives in St. Louis, they are inextricably tied to each other in cranky, frustrating, and often combative ways. Narrator Kate has worked hard to mask her "sixth sense" by transforming herself into an ordinary wife to loving, even-keeled husband Jeremy and mother of two adorable kids, but she has enormous insecurities. Kate and Jeremy's neighbors are Courtney (who is also Jeremy's colleague) and her stay-at-home husband Hank, who is Kate's best friend. Vi is an exuberant, self-centered self-promoter who gives psychic readings for a living. When an earthquake rattles St. Louis in September 2009, Vi's prediction that a much bigger one is on the way gains national traction, setting off a media circus and geographic panic. As well, Kate's reluctant, growing involvement in Vi's life leads to a shocking, seismic disruption on her home front. VERDICT Any one of the many themes in this latest novel from Sittenfeld (Prep and American Wife) would make for a riveting story. The author turns conventions on their collective head and creates a world that is familiar, maddening, alluring, and, ultimately, guardedly hopeful.--Beth Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI[Page 86]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Delicious insights into sisterhood and motherhood are peppered throughout Sittenfeld's novel about identical twins with ESP. The story, though, isn't as convincing as the twins, who are rendered so vividly that readers would be able to pick them out of a crowd. Kate, a stay-at-home mom in St. Louis, Mo., is embarrassed by her sister Violet, who ekes out a living as a psychic. After a minor earthquake in the area in September 2009, Violet's guiding spirit warns her that a major quake is imminent. When Kate has a premonition that it will occur on October 16, she allows Violet to share the date with the public if she doesn't reveal its source. Kate tells the story in chapters that alternate between timelines, one beginning with the September quake and one beginning when the twins are born. As a narrator, Kate is introspective and mostly honest, but the backstory is weighed down with unnecessary details and crucial questions remain unasked. As the clock ticks toward October 16, Violet attracts widespread media attention and Kate pleads with her husband not to leave her and the twins at home to attend a conference in Colorado. Sittenfeld (American Wife) offers no fresh perspective on ESP or living with giftedness but delivers a rich and intimate tale of imperfect, well-meaning, ordinary people struggling to define themselves and protect the people they love. Agent: Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, WME Entertainment. (June)[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC