Tuesday, June 25, 2013

REVIEW: SISTERLAND BY CURTIS SITTENFELD

Curtis Sittenfeld, New York Times bestselling author of American Wife and Prep, returns with a mesmerizing novel of family and identity, loyalty and deception, and the delicate line between truth and belief.

From an early age, Kate and her identical twin sister, Violet, knew that they were unlike everyone else. Kate and Vi were born with peculiar “senses”—innate psychic abilities concerning future events and other people’s secrets. Though Vi embraced her visions, Kate did her best to hide them.

Now, years later, their different paths have led them both back to their hometown of St. Louis. Vi has pursued an eccentric career as a psychic medium, while Kate, a devoted wife and mother, has settled down in the suburbs to raise her two young children. But when a minor earthquake hits in the middle of the night, the normal life Kate has always wished for begins to shift. After Vi goes on television to share a premonition that another, more devastating earthquake will soon hit the St. Louis area, Kate is mortified. Equally troubling, however, is her fear that Vi may be right. As the date of the predicted earthquake quickly approaches, Kate is forced to reconcile her fraught relationship with her sister and to face truths about herself she’s long tried to deny.

Funny, haunting, and thought-provoking, Sisterland is a beautifully written novel of the obligation we have toward others, and the responsibility we take for ourselves. With her deep empathy, keen wisdom, and unerring talent for finding the extraordinary moments in our everyday lives, Curtis Sittenfeld is one of the most exceptional voices in literary fiction today.

Where to Find Sisterland: 

Where to Find Curtis Sittenfeld: 

Published by Random House Publishing Group - June 25th, 2013
Received eARC from Random House via NetGalley

Our Review:

It's been almost 24 hours since I finished Sisterland and I'm still trying to wrap my brain around what I think...or more likely, what to think.  I think that's the beauty of literary fiction; it leaves a lot of loose ends that are flapping around at the end and you're left to mull things over and speculate about how things will work out for these characters. 

Wow. That is all I could say when I finished. I too am simply a little bit stunned. I think at first, I thought the psychic stuff was going to make it a lot more supernatural than it was...which made me somewhat hesitant, but I was so very curious after Shelley introduced me to it in a Waiting on Wednesday post. I am always intrigued by a twin aspect, and even more simply a sisterland bond aspect, so we couldn't request to read it fast enough. 

So we have these twin sisters, Vi and Kate, and they have the "senses" or what we might consider psychic abilities. This novel weaves various instances of their sensing of an 'event', how it impacts them, and how they each live with their knowledge of their abilities. It's a narrative that blends the past and the present to give us a full picture of how we arrive at the Vi and Kate we have at present day.

The way my views of each of the characters changed throughout is still the most forefront in my mind. I didn't think that Vi's irresponsibility would ever be overshadowed by her never failing love and devotion for her sister...which is ironic because really Kate is probably most at fault for giving me these doubting thoughts about Vi in the first place. I decided that each of them is so wrapped up in wanting the other one to either be and think exactly alike or punishing the other for not being more bending or understanding. Yes, this theme started my deeper philosophical thinking about the how we treat those we are closest to and I therefore subjected Shelley to some very long narratives of my own. 

Vi tends to be the more outspoken of the two sisters. She speaks openly about her 'senses' and manages to parlay them into being her primary source of income. She initially seems immune to what others think of her but don't mistake that for ignorance. She knows that people say some ugly things about her but she doesn't appear to allow it to rile her up or upset her too terribly. In many ways I respected Vi for her willingness to be herself and do what she wanted. There were times, too, that I wanted to throttle her for her unwillingness to accept that her way wasn't always the best or the only way to do things. Ultimately, though, I think I liked Vi's less judgmental ways. She had some vulnerable moments but she was a pretty tough chick too.

This is so true. She is the side of ourselves that we all wish could be bigger and brighter. Self esteem is a funny thing, and she was confident in herself to the point where she didn't get mixed up by people judging her...or not that we saw. Vi represented things to Kate that she wanted to erase from her life, especially when Vi's predictions become so public. 

Kate was kind of infuriating. She was so worried about what other people thought, or about being liked, or about being different that it felt like she didn't always live her life as much as react to it. Her anxiety overran so many of her decisions that I wanted to simultaneously comfort her and choke her for overthinking everything.  I have no idea how her husband, Jeremy, was as patient as he was. I also thought it was interesting that Kate was so judgmental and defensive (and in denial) of it. She seemed to operate under the 'how will this impact me' philosophy--she hid it, though, under the guise of how something would effect her father or her husband ...when really the bottom line was that she had a hard time accepting certain choices her friends and family made. By the end of the story, even though she did some things that made me furious and sad, I was relieved to see that she was beginning to be more accepting of the challenges that would stand before her.

This is so funny, because I said after about 60% that Kate with her anxiety and obsessive thinking could so be me! Am I just latching onto the possibility that other people over think what to say and do, all of the time?  Probably...but for this story, the scenarios that help cultivate these behaviors paint a clear picture of Kate, where I thought I had her figured out. I have never been more wrong about where I imagined a book going, so it basically blew my mind in a big way. Jeremy is the one person throughout that I never wondered if he was a good person. How he put up with her? Not sure still, but I did wonder is his being attuned to her helping her through her worry and keeping her grounded enough that she doesn't put her kids in padded rooms, or is he helping enable her behavior? She does everything in her power not to sense things, and sometimes misses the bigger picture until it is too late.

The periphery characters: Kate and Vi's parents, Jeremy, Hank and Courtney, Stephanie, and other friends helped round out the story and give additional conflicts and episodes that help define the twins even further. The more we see them interact with others the more we begin to understand and predict how they will each react to the drama that inevitably comes with the earthquake prediction and the events that surround it. 

Whoa. Did the secondary stories ever provide some insane meat to this story..(Pun intended...because Courtney and Hank are vegetarians...and Courtney is a Grade A B*tch). Primarily how much does your parents influence truly screw you up? Do the previous generations failures really cause such a paradigm shift? For Kate and Vi and less so Jeremy, they did for sure. (See, I told you I went on to some deep thinking) 

In the last 15% of this novel, some crazy things happen. No spoiler here, but let me just express my utter horror at some of the things that happened and the heartbreaking aftermath. I'm not sure ...I have no words...I'm still struggling. I have such a mix of emotions and it's a testament to Curtis Sittenfeld's writing and her story that my hurt/relief/sadness/hope/?? still clings to my bones and is begging me to examine this story further.

Genuine chest clenching moments, that was...which turned into me trying to grasp my thoughts like I am right now. This...even as much as it hurts...is why I love to read. The rawness and realness of where this went that pushed it over the top in my love for it will keep me reeling for some time, I think. There are a lot of issues addressed here, but I didn't find it be trying for too much, or too hard and the pace and writing were a breath of fresh air. Clearly I think too much, but the line "..curiosity we all feel when confronted with evidence of a world that dared to exist before our consciousness of it." Is something I marvel at too often....so Curtis Sittenfeld...I think we got it! Bravo.

If you have the time and are looking for something a little different, I'd definitely recommend taking a chance on it. 

Shelley: 4 1/2 Stars
Courtney: 5 stars

2 comments:

  1. She just looks like Dakota Fanning! I hate when they put people on the cover. It won't let me imagine the character by myself, and I just picture the person on the cover.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha, I have that problem too. I hate when they put somebody with blonde hair on a cover when the heroine's actual hair color is different! Ggrr!

      Delete

Comments are bloggy food.

Feed our blog...