The wait for Curtis Sittenfeld's Sisterland was a long one. I'm a huge fan of Sittenfeld's writing and her previous novel, American Wife, was released in 2008. As I said, it was a long wait!
I was so excited over her new novel, that I saved it for my UK vacation and only started reading it when the moment was optimal and free from distractions. I knew that it was a book that I would really want to savor.
Sisterland is the story of identical twins, Violet and Daisy, who share more than looks, they have psychic abilities. As adults, Daisy attempts to lead a normal surburban life as a stay-at-home mom and wife, keeping her abilities a secret. Violet is a complete contrast Daisy. She is single, a bit bohemian and makes a living as a psychic. Daisy finds her world turned upside down when Violet predicts an earthquake in their home town in Missouri and the prediction picks up steam in the local media. Daisy has to decide if supporting her sister and the prediction is worth the risk of having her quiet life destroyed.
I'm an only child and the bond between siblings is a complete mystery to me. The bond between twins is even more foreign. The sibling bond was a primary theme of Sisterland. My favorite stories involve characters with lives so different from my own and on that level, this story was a winner. I have no psychic abilities (don't believe in them either), I'm not a mother and I don't live in the suburbs. This doesn't mean that the characters were not relatable as people, just that the story contained so many unfamiliar things to my own life.
I have to be honest and say that Sisterland has been my least favorite Sittenfeld novel. That said, it's still a Sittenfeld novel and compared to a lot of other contemporary novels, a great read. If Sisterland had been her first novel, I would have been anxious for her followup. She's great at writing tense scenarios filled with biting dialogue. She writes characters with deep seeded secrets on the bubble of being exposed. Her novels are exciting to watch unfold.
She has a knack for writing characters that have really mortifying childhood stories. Sittenfeld novels are filled with cringe-worthy moments. Daisy and Violet had a childhood filled with awkward middle-school moments. None of her books have been "Young Adult", but she knows how to write realistic YA characters. Reading her novels will make you recall some of your most embarrassing childhood memories.
Sittenfeld almost lost me right off the bat with an earthquake scene at the start of the novel. I grew up and currently live in Southern California and have been through several major Earthquakes (Whittier, Northridge). Daisy's response to the quake didn't ring true at all.
Luckily, soon after the quake chapter, I quickly became engrossed in the story. On a whole it was a quick read that kept my attention. I wavered a little towards the end of the story, when the pacing slowed down and the story arc became seemingly muddled. Ultimately though, the conclusion of the story was very satisfactory, it just took hind-sight to see where Sittenfeld was going with the entire thing.
I hope that Sittenfeld doesn't wait another five years for her next novel!