Tuesday, July 2, 2013

book review: Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

The backstory: Curtis Sittenfeld's previous novel, American Wife, remains my all-time favorite novel.

The basics: Sisterland is the story of Violet and Kate, twin sisters who both are somewhat psychic. In adulthood, Vi has embraced her powers and works as a psychic. Kate, however, has disavowed her powers in an attempt to live a 'normal', happy life with her husband, a professor of science, and two children. When a minor earthquake hits St. Louis, Vi predicts a major one coming soon, and her prediction makes her an instant celebrity. Meanwhile, Kate shares a sense of Vi's prediction, while Jeremy does not.

My thoughts: I adore the way Curtis Sittenfeld writes. I was highlighting my e-galley compulsively as I read. She builds the world and her characters beautifully and honestly. She inserts beautifully detailed observations that stopped me cold:
"The feeling that gripped me in this moment was similar to what I imagined the relatives of an alcoholic must experience when they learn that their parent or child or sibling has gone on another bender: that mix of anger and disappointment and lack of surprise, a blend so exquisite, so familiar, it's almost like satisfaction."
In this novel, the action begins in the present day, but most chapters include key elements of Kate and Vi's life told chronologically before jumping back to the present. In this sense, the story unfolds slowly, but the significance of small moments are amplified by the reader's growing understanding. The action in this novel occurs in 2009, and once Kate has finished explaining how she and Vi got to the present, a future present voice begins popping up. I'm a huge fan of the future present, as it can offer minor, tantalizing clues about how and where the story will end. Sittenfeld uses the future present masterfully in this novel.

Favorite passage: "Do you think she's pretty?" Vi's voice was surprisingly vulnerable, and I thought how I had forgotten this part--how when you got together with someone new, you had to adjust to the ways in which they implicitly represented you. First you had to figure out what those ways were; then you had to determine whether you could put up with them."

The verdict: Sisterland builds slowly, and near the end I began to fear Sittenfeld had written a glorious set up to an ultimately disappointing novel. The last chapter, however, is a literary tour de force and could serve as a masterclass in detailed plot development free of gimmicks.

Rating: 5 out of 5
Length: 416 pages
Publication date: June 25, 2013
Source: publisher

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Sisterland from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Curtis Sittenfeld's website.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

20 comments:

  1. 5 star? how great - it's on my TBR list so happy you loved it.

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    1. Diane, I hope you love it as much as I did!

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  2. I'm picking this one up from the library today. Glad to read the good review since I've loved all her other books so far!

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  3. I did like American Wife and 5 stars on this one. Definitely on my list.

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  4. Glad this was another winner for you! I definitely need to read American Wife.

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    1. YES. You definitely do. Read that first;-)

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  5. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I've heard good things about this book - on other blogs. I might consider it

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    1. Melinda, it's my favorite book of summer so far. I hope you can find time for it!

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  6. I need to add Curtis Sittenfeld to my authors to try list. Glad you enjoyed this so much!

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    1. JoAnn, I think she's an author you'd enjoy, but I'd recommend starting with American Wife first.

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  7. Oooh, wow -- I need to get this one. American Wife totally messed with my head -- and your comments about the last chapter of this book has me drooling with anticipation!

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    1. Audra, this one might mess with your head too, but in a GOOD way.

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  8. Wow, towards the end there I thought you were going to give it a bad rating. Glad that the last chapter turned it around for you.

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    1. Ti--that's exactly what I was thinking as I read. I shall never doubt Ms. Sittenfeld again.

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  9. I really loved American Wife and I've been dying to read Sisterland. My library FINALLY got it in, so hopefully I'll be reading it soon.

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    1. Melissa, I'll look forward to your thoughts!

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  10. I've never considered Sittenfeld but your review has me asking myself why! Now I have to ask...you refer to "she/her"--is Sittenfeld a woman? Guess I could just google...

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    1. Trish, I think you'd enjoy Sittenfeld. And yes, she's a she:-)

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Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!