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Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld


by Curtis Sittenfeld

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Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
The twin sisters in Sisterland are psychic. Flamboyant Violet embraces - and commercializes - her gift, while reticent Kate, our narrator, is intent on suppressing hers. Kate is beside herself when Violet predicts that a major earthquake is going to hit their home town of St. Louis, especially when the national media get involved. Although Kate herself cannot dismiss Violet's vision and contributes to the media frenzy by assigning a date to the catastrophe, it still seems as if she is more concerned with Violet's weight, bad hair and bad manners than with the prospect of an earthquake squashing her kids.

I really liked Sittenfeld's Prep and I really liked this. Her characters breathe, and they are all multifaceted. The heart of the book is much more in family relationships, rendered with considerable complexity, than in paranormal activity. It's not hard to believe in the story even if you absolutely do not believe in psychic ability, as I certainly do not - the reader can find natural explanations for most of the purported visions. (Only a part of the story concerned with finding a missing child required absolute suspension of disbelief). The reader isn't asked to pit one character against another, although I generally sympathized with crazy Violet over rigid Kate, with her pursed-lipped judgment against everyone around her. Kate is an unreliable narrator, and when we tell the stories of ourselves in our family, aren't we all? ( )
  CasualFriday | Mar 31, 2014 |
I enjoy curtis Sittenfeld's wrining. This novel was about two twin sisters who have psychic abilitiesbut only one sister feels the need to use them. Daisy the other sister believes her senses are a hindrance in her life and she wants to live as normal a life as she can. ( )
  teeth | Mar 5, 2014 |
Twin sisters, Kate Tucker and Violet Schramm, are the focus of Curtis Sittenfeld’s novel, Sisterland. The girls grew up in suburban St. Louis and fairly soon they realized that they shared a mild ESP, which they called “senses”. Their parents were cold and unconnected to their daughters so the girls struggled together with the typical child and teen age issues. Kate found her ESP especially burdensome. When she used it to gain popularity, it backfired. Kate definitely was the more conservative of the twins, having a conventional family in the suburbs of St. Louis. Violet took a different path and capitalized on her psychic abilities by giving psychic readings. From their early teens the two sisters had an adversarial relationship. Kate did everything she could to be as “normal” as possible, even denying that she had any psychic gifts. Vi was always a source of embarrassment for Kate and one time her misbehavior got Kate placed on college probation when Vi was accused of assault and she claimed to be Kate.
After several unsuccessful relationships, Kate married a charming, intelligent man. They had two children, a boy and a girl. When her daughter became very ill with meningitis, Kate realized that she couldn’t comfortably continue to be a working mother. She was able to stay at home and devote herself to creating a warm, charming life for her family. This peaceful existence was Kate’s dream life. She tried to ignore the drama queen existence of her sister. Suddenly, Vi’s life was such a big story that it could not be ignored. After a minor earthquake hit the St. Louis area, Vi was interviewed on local TV and she made a prediction that a major quake will hit the city soon. To balance the interview, the scientist who is also interviewed is Kate’s husband’s co-worker. Vi then becomes a media darling with an appearance on the Today show. Although all the characters have extreme reactions to this prediction, the novel is not about ESP. Truly almost all “psychic events” could be explained away as perceptive understanding or coincidence. Instead the book is about family life; how it influences us at all stages, what we want from a family, and how we wound and care for each other. Like real life, there are no perfect people here. The writing stays with you as you wonder if you would have made better choices than some of these characters did.
  dewittlib | Feb 14, 2014 |
Sisterland starts out with an interesting plot: A professional psychic who loves attention predicts a major earthquake in St. Louis, negatively affecting her more private twin sister. Kate has suppressed her own abilities and is trying to live a "normal" life with her husband and children when Vi makes her public prediction.

But once the narrative gets past most of the results of the media storm and public reactions that Vi has set off, it becomes a slow, day-to-day report on the tedious life of stay-at-home mom Kate, her husband Patrick and their two children. Interspersed are flashbacks to Kate's younger days, but these are no more interesting. There are few examples of the twins' so-called "senses" at work, and even Kate--after sitting in on one of her sister's group sessions--thinks that Vi gives out more affirmations and good advice than other-worldly wisdom. But the book isn't really about their psychic abilities; it is about Kate.

As others have mentioned, the characters are interesting, realistic and diverse. But Kate came across to me as egotistical, narcissistic and self-deluded. Since the book is narrated by her, it is impossible to get away from her and her skewed view of reality. Vi sometimes criticizes things that Kate does, and at first it makes Vi seem a bit heartless, but as things go on you realize that she speaks a lot of truth. But she is also Kate's sister, and loves her, so she tries to bite her tongue.

I was glad to reach the end, but found the ending unsatisfying. None of the problems are solved; none of the characters experience growth or learn anything that will help them get on with their lives. In fact they seem worse off, more twisted and deluded, than when they started. ( )
  Jubercat | Nov 20, 2013 |
The story starts with an earthquake in St. Louis. Kate Tucker and her husband, Jeremy are surprised not only to see Jeremy's professor co-worker on the news discussing the earthquake but also Violet, Kate's twin sister, a psychic who is predicting there will be another earthquake in St. Louis, but much worse. Kate (born Daisy but changed to Kate in college) is mortified by Vi. The book moves between the present and the past and we learn that both girls were born with "senses", Kate starts using hers in middle school to impress a popular girl though that eventually goes south. Vi doesn't care for any of the normal school stuff but Kate craves being normal. She distances herself from Vi as they get older, trying to lead a normal life. The story is told through Kate's eyes and I found her to be boring and sometimes annoying. She is a stay at home mom with a toddler and an infant and spends her time rather obsessive over them. Her husband, Jeremy, keeps her from going off the rails but not enough to keep me from liking her less as the story progresses. She feels superior when she runs into a former classmate that was part of the popular crowd in high school, thinking "I found a husband and you didn't". The fact that this former classmate asks Kate to "sense" whether her on again/off again boyfriend will propose makes me wonder if Kate mirrors the author.
So back to the earthquake. Vi has the premonition that it will happen, Kate wakes up one day and knows the date it will happen. She tells Vi, who is making the rounds of the talk shows. Kate becomes focused on this date even though her husband doesn't believe it will happen and he refuses to cancel a conference he has out of town the weekend the earthquake is supposed to happen.
It seems like the story is supposed to be about Kate and Vi but it really isn't. It isn't really about Kate coming to terms with her gift and need for control and normalcy. It seems to lose steam and then has an ending that does not fit with Kate's character at all. I found Vi to be much more interesting, but we only see Kate's perspective. I was liking the book up to a point, then it just became a disappointment. This is the first novel by Sittenfeld I have read while reviews for those books are glowing, I am soured by the fact that I stayed up late to finish a novel that just didn't live up to what it could have been. ( )
1 vote bookmagic | Nov 18, 2013 |
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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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