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Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld


by Curtis Sittenfeld

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I saw Curtis Sittenfeld read from Sisterland at last year's Iowa City Book Festival. The book is about twins who have ESP. Kate has tried to squelch her abilities, while Violet has tried to make a career as a medium. The two sisters are able to co-exist in their hometown of St. Louis, even though Kate's life as a suburban wife and mother, is much different from Violet's single life. But when Violet predicts that an earthquake will hit St. Louis, the whole country's attention is drawn to the two sisters.

At first, I wasn't sure that interested in a book about two sisters with ESP. But this book isn't really about the ability to predict the future. Instead it is about two women figuring out who they are and who they want to be. Issues of balancing between work and family and standing out versus blending in resonated with me. Sittenfeld knows how to tell a story as well. As the date for the predicted earthquake draws near and tension arises in the relationship between Kate and Violet, the pace of the book picks up. By the end, I had come to really care for Kate and Violet. ( )
  porch_reader | Oct 17, 2014 |
I really liked this one...a lot! I was first drawn to it because it is a ‘sisters’ book AND because it is set in St. Louis. And I was rewarded. I LOVED all the St. Louis details the author included in the novel. I’ve been to almost all of the places she mentioned and have at least heard about most of the ones I haven’t been to! But one of the things that really hooked me once I started reading is the ‘earthquake’ story. In this story, the sisters are identical twins, and have ‘psychic’ abilities. Sister Vi picks up that a major earthquake will occur along the New Madrid fault, and gives a specific date, causing widespread panic. What is so interesting is that this really happened about 25 years ago. The man who made the prediction was not a ‘psychic’ but he did give a date for the earthquake to occur, and unbelievably, at least to me, was that many, many people, including a few of my own friends and relatives and much of the media, took him quite seriously and refused to send their children to school or cross bridges on that December day! If I remember, Iben Browing, the man who made the prediction was a meteorologist, not a geologist. If you live outside of the midwest, you may not even be aware of the New Madrid fault, let alone the fact that it is responsible for one of the largest earthquakes in US history. It is still active, so even though his prediction was a disservice and did cause widespread unnecessary panic, it also served to make people more aware of the potential damage that will result when ‘the big one’ does occur. Since that time, building standards have been modified and bridges and overpasses have been retrofitted.

Back to the book though…
While the earthquake prediction played a major role in the story, the story was really about relationship. The identical twins respond differently to their psychic abilities with Vi running with it, and Kate running FROM it. Throughout their lives Kate has worked to ‘fit in’ with her peer group, and Vi has alwys been herself, not worrying about how she is perceived by others. This causes tension between Kate and Vi, and stress for Kate as she worries about her friends and family and how they will feel about her once they meet Vi. And of course, the tension builds as the predicted date of the earthquake approaches, causing issues in Kate’s relationship with Vi as well as in her marriage. I am not going to tell you whether or not there is an earthquake, but the events leading up to the predicted date do result in chaos to the sister’s relationships. I was pleased the author with the way the author chose to the story. I was given enough of a glimpse into the future to know what happens to the characters, instead of being left hanging, wondering about their futre.

I really enjoyed this one! If you like story sisters I think you will, too! You can visit Curtis Sittenfeld’s web site for discussion questions and an excerpt of Sisterland.

And if you’d like to read more about the 1812 earthquake along the New Madrid fault, you might be interested in Jay Feldman’s When The Mississippi Ran Backwards: Empire Intrigue, Murder and the New Madrid Earthquakes.

I received a review copy of this book through the Goodreads First Reads program in return for an honest review. ( )
  Time2Read2 | Sep 18, 2014 |
I had high hopes for this book. It looked like it would be really good. However it was a major let down. Though I could related with the main character and her struggles with keeping her identity while not failing as a stay at home mom with 2 kids and a wife I believe she was seriously depressed the whole time. The way her relationships were and the way she treated everything that happened was somewhat annoying. I thought this book would have more edge to it as the main concept was that her and her twin were psychic. It's been a long time since I've had to rate a book lower than a 3 star. ( )
  Tiffy83 | Aug 11, 2014 |
Interesting read. I was tempted to stop at various points but I do think it is worth finishing, ( )
  INorris | Jun 22, 2014 |
I have mixed feelings about this book. It was terribly compelling and by that I mean I was so frustrated and upset with the characters and their choices that I actually cried at the end of the book. Talk about doomed to repeat history. I haven't been this emotional about a book since Jo Jo Moyes': Me Before You but I was uplifted by that book. So if you like emotionally jarring, frustratingly real characters, this book is for you. ( )
  hopebird | May 7, 2014 |
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When the strongest earthquake in U.S. history occurs just north of their St. Louis home, Kate and Jeremy find the disaster further complicated by Kate's self-proclaimed-medium twin's prediction about a more powerful earthquake, a situation that places Kate under public scrutiny and reveals her own psychic abilities.… (more)

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