Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Flowers with Sense

Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld is the story of Daisy, who prefers to be called Kate.  Daisy/Kate, and her twin sister, Violet, have what they call "senses" and what you and I would call "ESP".  Kate has worked to live a normal life and leave her senses behind.  She married a scientist, had children of her own, and basically just tries to blend in.  Suddenly, Violet has a premonition that there is going to be a season of earthquakes affecting the St. Louis area, where they both live.

In the interest of helping the public prepare, Violet takes her prediction to the evening news.  This mortifies Kate, and she hopes that people won't realize that Violet is her sister.  But nevertheless, Kate takes the prediction seriously, and waits for the quakes to arrive.

Kate is an incredibly unlikeable character.  She had a miserable childhood, with a mom who was suffering from depression and rarely left her bed.  She was bullied in high school when people found out about her senses, and hopes to never see anyone from her old school.  But then she insists on repeating her parents' mistakes.  She wants to raise her kids in St. Louis even though she hated it there, she names her daughter after a flower despite hating her own flowery name, and she is so uncomfortable with herself that she tries to keep secrets from her husband, Jeremy.  Jeremy, in contrast to Kate, is a portrait of a perfect husband.  He is incredibly patient and understanding, even if he can't believe that ESP is real. 

To be fair, Kate's frenemy, Courtney, is even less likeable than Kate, but that doesn't do much to make Kate look better.  Courtney makes a choice that is appalling to me, and Kate uses that choice as a springboard to her own bad decisions.

Sisterland had a weird tension going on through the story with a lot of foreshadowing that ultimately went nowhere.  In a less talented author, I would have thought that maybe she just lost track of all of her hints and didn't follow through.  I have to think that Sittenfeld did this on purpose to try to give the reader the experience that Kate and Violet lived with, where they were never sure if their premonitions would come to fruition, and if visions did come to be, if it would happen in the form that the twins foresaw.

Ultimately, I was disappointed in Sisterland.  I loved Sittenfeld's earlier book, American Wife, and anxiously requested Sisterland on NetGalley as soon as I saw it.  I'll be interested to read the reviews on this one when Sisterland comes out on June 25.  What I can say, though, is that while I didn't love the book, I can't stop thinking about it.

Full disclosure:  I received a free electronic copy of Sisterland, and agreed to review it.  No promises were made, and no payments were received.

My July Industry Requested Review is supposed to be The Lemon Orchard by Luanne Rice, and I planned to review My Education by Susan Choi in August.  Now that I've got them both in my hot little hands though, I may switch that order.  Both books will be available for giveaways, so stay tuned!

Next Up On Paper:  I'm going to read The Patrick Melrose Novels  by Edward St. Aubyn.  TPMN is a collection of four novels that St. Aubyn released separately between 1992 and 2006.  I am going to review them one at a time as I finish them, and hopefully still manage to get the full collection done, possibly including the 5th book that is not included in TPMN, by the end of the summer.

Still Listening to:  Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy.  OK fine.  I admit it.  I'm not hating this story, and I'm even liking it a little.

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