Review: Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

I wanted to read Sisterland right away because it is about identical twins. As an identical twin myself, I love reading twin books. I want to see if the author gets it “right”. Curtis Sittenfeld definitely does. At one point Kate, the narrator, mentions that while she and Vi were not best friends growing up, there really was no basis for comparison against being twins. That’s how Emily and I always responded when people asked if we liked being twins. Since we’d never been singletons, how could we really say how being twins compared? Sittenfeld also very accurately portrays Kate’s innate desire to support her sister Vi…even against her husband’s wishes.

I listened to the audiobook, and the long stretches of backstory made it confusing to restart listening. I had a hard time placing myself in the story when I didn’t remember if we were in the present or the past. But, at least, the backstory was told chronologically.

I also struggled to determine what the main plot of the story was supposed to be. I thought it was Vi’s prediction of the earthquake in St. Louis, but as the novel got closer to ending, it seemed to stretch on beyond that and shift focus a bit.

I liked the character Hank: Kate’s stay-at-home dad best friend. Their friendship was my favorite part of the book, but Sittenfeld managed to warp even that by the end of the book.

There were several controversial subjects thrown into the book that didn’t really seem necessary. While I agreed with the prevailing opinion of the book on all of them, for me, it distracted from what little plot there was to have these topics included in the story.

In the end I just felt like not much happened in the book, even though a lot of things did take place.

Rating: 2 Stars

This review was originally published on Mom’s Radius.

Curtis Sittenfeld
Random House Audio
June 25, 2013
Audio CD

Curtis Sittenfeld, author of American Wife and Prep, returns with a mesmerizing novel of family and identity, loyalty and deception, and the delicate line between truth and belief.

From an early age, Kate and her identical twin sister, Violet, knew that they were unlike everyone else. Kate and Vi were born with peculiar “senses”—innate psychic abilities concerning future events and other people’s secrets. Though Vi embraced her visions, Kate did her best to hide them.

Now, years later, their different paths have led them both back to their hometown of St. Louis. Vi has pursued an eccentric career as a psychic medium, while Kate, a devoted wife and mother, has settled down in the suburbs to raise her two young children. But when a minor earthquake hits in the middle of the night, the normal life Kate has always wished for begins to shift. After Vi goes on television to share a premonition that another, more devastating earthquake will soon hit the St. Louis area, Kate is mortified. Equally troubling, however, is her fear that Vi may be right. As the date of the predicted earthquake quickly approaches, Kate is forced to reconcile her fraught relationship with her sister and to face truths about herself she’s long tried to deny.

Funny, haunting, and thought-provoking, Sisterland is a beautifully written novel of the obligation we have toward others, and the responsibility we take for ourselves. With her deep empathy, keen wisdom, and unerring talent for finding the extraordinary moments in our everyday lives, Curtis Sittenfeld is one of the most exceptional voices in literary fiction today.

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