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February 2015

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Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

sisterland

If you’ve been in a bookstore in the last few months, you’ve probably seen this book. Or maybe I’m the only one who kept noticing it. The cover shows two white girls, probably ten years old, with their heads together, half of each face outside of the frame. It was part of a ‘buy two, get one free’ sale at Powell’s (the same one that resulted in me reading The Martian, so I’m forever thankful for it), and the back looked like it might be good. And it was, mostly.

The book is set in St. Louis, and is told from the point of view of Kate, who has an identical twin sister Violet (Vi). According to the back cover “…in junior high, Kate makes a fateful decision that drives the sisters apart.” Eventually the sisters “find themselves drawn together again.”

I don’t think that really adequately captures what this book is about. Maybe it’s a good thing, because I’m not sure I would have read it if I’d actually known what it was about. I’m not spoiling anything that you don’t learn ten pages in – these sisters are psychic. Yeah, I didn’t get a supernatural vibe from that description either, but that sixth sense is kind of a giant part of the book, and since it is introduced in the first chapter, it’s kind of odd it isn’t mentioned in the blurb. Or maybe they rightfully thought it might turn off people who would otherwise enjoy it. The ‘fateful decision’ also isn’t, really fateful. Or nearly as dramatic as the description would describe.

But the book is really interesting because it follows a woman who is otherwise what we’d likely describe as ordinary. Educated woman not working outside the home because she’s raising two young children; husband with a decent job. She also has a less than ideal family, and had a much less than ideal childhood. The author does, I think, a good job of creating a very vivid world, and showing that not everyone who we think is ‘ordinary’ is as they appear. I’m not thrilled with the ending, although it seems fairly true to the characters involved. I say add it to your library list.

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