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My Sister, My Love: The Intimate Story of…

My Sister, My Love: The Intimate Story of Skyler Rampike (2008)

by Joyce Carol Oates

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"I've made myself begin whatever this will be, some kind of personal document--a 'unique personal document'--not a mere memoir but (maybe) a confession. (Since in some quarters, Skyler Rampyke is a murder suspect you'd think I have plenty to confess,wouldn't you?) Fittingly, this document will not be chronological/linear but will follow a pathway of free association organized by an unswerving (if undetectable) interior logic: unliterary, unpretentious, disarmingly crude-amateur, guilt-ridden, appropriate to the 'survivor' who abandoned his six-year-old sister to her 'fate' sometime in the 'wee hours' of January 29, 1997, in our home in Fair Hills, New Jersey. Yes, I am that Rampike."

This book is Joyce Carol Oates's imagined version of the Jon-Benet Ramsey murder. In the book, Jon-Benet is Bliss Rampike, a precocious ice-skater who was murdered at the age of six in the basement of the family home. The story is narrated by Skyler Rampike, Bliss's brother, who was nine years old at the time of the murder, and who is telling the story ten years later.

The Rampike family is needless to say dysfunctional. Patsy Rampike could reasonably described as mentally ill, and her husband Bix is a philanderer who is usually missing in action.

Skyler describes life before Bliss, life during her brief period of fame, and most importantly Skyler narrates brilliantly the effects the murder had on the Rampike family, and in particular on him. While the parents were initially suspected of the murder, and Bliss had a stalker who may have been implicated in her murder, in large part the suspicions of guilt were directed to Skyler.

This is one of the best Oates books I have read. It is an incisive and dark pyschological study of two flawed individuals who should never have had children, and whose actions created deeply unhappy and disturbed children.

However, the book is not unceasingly bleak. In fact, substantial portions of it skewer the life styles of upwardly mobile social climbers. The descriptions of Skyler's disastrous "play-dates," organized by his mother to further her social ambitions are particularly funny. At least until we stop to consider how difficult these episodes must have been to Skyler. ( )
  arubabookwoman | Apr 24, 2017 |
My introduction to JCO was the paperback 'them' which had just come out some 40 years ago (by the way, she autographed that very book at last year's Book Fair in Vermont!). I have been an avid fan ever since (her incisive characterizations are like no one else's), even reading all of her psycho-mysteries that she pens under the pseudonym of 'Rosamond Smith'. It's just amazing to me how she can enter the mind/world of 'real' people ('Blonde'-MM, 'Black Water'-TK and M/JK) and make their lives so interesting and plausible, that you are captivated. For someone who has devoted her life to academia and writing, writing, writing, it just doesn't seem that she would have such a rich imagination to plunder but I'm so grateful that she has. Her most recent efforts that I've vastly enjoyed are 'The Falls' and 'The Gravedigger's Daughter'. 'My Sister, My Love' is among her very best. This portrait of the typical, American, dysfunctional family (an overworked cliche for sure, but so true) with a globe-trotting, philandering FATHER, a Jesus-loving, jealous, do-anything-for-my-daughter MOTHER, the lonely, intelligent, limping SON and, of course, the bed-wetting, slow-witted and yet endearing, miracle-on-ice DAUGHTER. This is not a family anyone to which anyone would want to belong, and yet one can't help but find them fascinating. The tabloid-reading public (including myself) could not get enough of the Ramsey family and it is such a sad, bewildering story, you can't but be glad you didn't live anywhere near them, for fear some of this dysfunction is catching. The tale is told by the SON these ten years after the murder and is filled with footnotes that are somtimes laugh-out-loud funny....And funny is not a word generally associated with JCO, AND, unlike 'real' life, the murderer is revealed. Despite the biting satire and rich prose, don't ever forget that you're in JCOLand and there is no dark quite like hers. Read it, and you won't be sorry...and if you are, you can always return to Nora Roberts...(this review was originally written on Amazon, several years ago!...G.) ( )
  Gemma. | Apr 27, 2013 |
Could not get through this book. Characters are so intensely dislikable, ridiculously self-centered, stupid and sometimes silly. And the mystery - I didn't care who did it. ( )
  Eliz12 | Apr 21, 2013 |
Repetitive, intermittantly hilarious, corrosive as battery acid, My Sister, My Love is JonBenet Ramsey's story, told by Burke Ramsey, thinly disguised as 'Skyler Rampike' with the author herself lurking around the edges of the narrative. If the solution in the book is correct, then 5 stars for the clever Ms Oates and I'm not going to Hell for laughing like a loon at one of the funeral scenes. If she's wrong, then 3 very mean spirited bitchy stars and a wish for 150 fewer pages.*

*Yes, I know that 19 year old basket case Skyler is not always entirely lucid and an amateur writer, but how many references to Betsey's creamy anatomy and her daughter's white eyelet peekaboo underwear does the reader need, anyhow? ( )
  koeeoaddi | Apr 2, 2013 |
This story gives me a lot to think about upbringing, parental ambitions and the disastrous consequences. Also this is a fiction based on an unsolved murder case there is so much truth in it how a lot of children are suffering from parental ambitions be it in a sportive or art aspect or the offspring's schooling for their future career and becoming rich and famous. Everything is planned in advance without asking the children if they would like it this way. There is no room left for individual fulfilment neither any possibility to meet friends on their own because playdates are organised by their mothers. So, it's no wonder that the kids and the adolescents need therapy to survive. It's a shame what damages parents can do. ( )
  Ameise1 | Mar 30, 2013 |
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"...the depiction of Skyler gives the book its considerable power. His voice is a memorable portrait of contemporary American jetsam - sly, wounded, unruly, but oddly credible. "
"She is a formidable writer, of course, and there are flashes of her at her hard-hitting best.

. . . But it is hard to warm to the book as a whole."
"My Sister, My Love" is an illuminating critique of media madness and all the shallowness that makes it go: misplaced parental ambitions and messed-up marriages (Skyler finds a used condom in Daddy's Jeep); religious faith for convenience and drugs that cover the pain (mostly prescription); a society so addicted to celebrity that it's easy to forget the ordinary folks who matter to us.

Most important, "My Sister, My Love" reminds us that the "Tabloid Hell" has not only become part of the air we breathe but also, as Pogo would have it, we've met the enemy, and it is us.
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Despair is a sickness of the spirit, of the self, and accordingly can take three forms: in despair not to be conscious of having a self; in despair not to will to be oneself; in despair to will to be oneself. Soren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death

The death of a beautiful girl-child of no more than ten years of age is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world. E. A. Pym, The Aesthetics of Composition, 1846
In memory of my sister Bliss (1991-1997)
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Skyler help me
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061547484, Hardcover)

New York Times bestselling author of The Falls, Blonde, and We Were the Mulvaneys, Joyce Carol Oates returns with a dark, wry, satirical tale—inspired by an unsolved American true-crime mystery.

"Dysfunctional families are all alike. Ditto 'survivors.'"

So begins the unexpurgated first-person narrative of nineteen-year-old Skyler Rampike, the only surviving child of an "infamous" American family. A decade ago the Rampikes were destroyed by the murder of Skyler's six-year-old ice-skating champion sister, Bliss, and the media scrutiny that followed. Part investigation into the unsolved murder; part elegy for the lost Bliss and for Skyler's own lost childhood; and part corrosively funny exposÉ of the pretensions of upper-middle-class American suburbia, this captivating novel explores with unexpected sympathy and subtlety the intimate lives of those who dwell in Tabloid Hell.

Likely to be Joyce Carol Oates's most controversial novel to date, as well as her most boldly satirical, this unconventional work of fiction is sure to be recognized as a classic exploration of the tragic interface between private life and the perilous life of "celebrity." In My Sister, My Love: The Intimate Story of Skyler Rampike, the incomparable Oates once again mines the depths of the sinister yet comic malaise at the heart of our contemporary culture.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:56 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A satirical tale inspired by an unsolved true mystery follows the experiences of a nineteen-year-old daughter of an upper-middle-class suburban family that is torn apart by a murder and intense media scrutiny.

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