Wednesday, October 16, 2013


In Curtis Sittenfeld's Sisterland twin sisters Kate and Violet (Vi) have shared a special bond as well as special senses or psychic abilities since their childhood, and though Vi has embraced her gift, Kate has chosen to hide her abilities and abstain from using them.

When a small earthquake rocks their hometown of St. Louis, Vi publicly shares a premonition that a larger more catastrophic quake will occur in the near future. As word spreads and Vi ends up on national television, Kate, a wife and stay at home mother of two, is both horrified at the public spectacle created by her sister and terrified that her prediction will actually come true. As the date of the quake draws near, tensions in the city and between the two sisters rise, and cause Kate to re-evaluate their relationship and her life.

Hmm...what can I say about this book? I'll start with WHAT THE HECK? but first things first.

The novel is narrated by Kate and switches between past and present to share Kate and Vi's childhood, adolescence and young adulthood and to give us, the readers, an insight into the women they've become. Through the childhood flashbacks, we learn that while the girls had an average middle class childhood, suffering no hunger, deprivation or abuse, they were ignored and neglected by a distant and emotionally-absent mother and a weak-willed father which made them rely on one another for the love, support and comfort every child needs. It is these early experiences which clearly helped form the indelible bond which exists between them still. Despite drifting apart through adolescence and the college years, and even through the rocky patches in their adult relationship, they remain each other's ballast in life and still know each other better than any other person.

Each character is well written and even though they are identical twins we get a clear picture of two very different women; one bold and daring, determined to live life on her own terms, the other more secure in playing it safe and leading an inconspicuous life, while always remaining in control; each taking very different paths in life and each facing their own individual struggles. Sittenfeld does a good job with character development, and offers an insightful look at a sibling relationship, doing so with a lot of warmth and humor (there were countless times were I laughed out loud) BUT...

Here comes the WHAT THE HECK part. The book does all of the wonderful things I mention above for more than 300 of the nearly 400 pages, and then in the last 90 plus pages the key plot point which has been driving the narrative goes nowhere, seemingly becoming a moot point, and instead the author takes a complete left turn which not only takes the story in a totally different direction but also causes the main character to act in a way which goes completely against everything we've been lead to believe about who she is. It was like the last 90 pages were written by a different author. As a reader, I felt cheated of a true organic ending, one that was true to both the story and the characters I'd grown to care about.