Book Review: Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

sisterland #twins #psychicFrom 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. When a minor earthquake hits in the middle of the night, the normal life Kate has always wished for begins to shift.

Received in ebook format from the publishers via
Decent sized text when presented on the Kobo, which made this easy and comfortable to read

A small earthquake wakes everyone up, and it is Vi, who predicts that another, larger, earthquake will hit the area soon. Kate is now married with two kids, ultra straight and conservative, and she has spent years trying to deny her powers still exist. Vi on the other hand is the opposite, still single, making some money out of her powers through consultation, and experimenting with being a lesbian.

Kate narrates what it was like growing up, both in conjunction with Violet whilst they’re young, and then solo as she moves to university and the pair begin growing apart. Their mother – long since dead – is only portrayed through Kate’s memories of an unhappy and possibly depressed woman. Narration also switches to Kate’s marriage to Jeremy in the present time, her friendship with Hank who lives down the road and who is a househusband to Jeremy’s colleague Courtney.

As the predicted date of the next earthquake approaches, things get increasingly tense for Kate, especially in her relationships with Jeremy and Vi. Jeremy is as laid back about the impending earthquake as Kate is unnerved by it, and this (combined with his continued friendship with Courtney), proves a major source of irritation between the two. Kate’s friendship with Hank – the black man in a mixed race relationship – exacerbates her feelings of isolation and insecurity, whilst ultimately being involved in the most life changing set of decisions Kate ever makes.

This is book where not an awful lot seems to happen – it is as much a study on the small things in Kate’s relationship with others as anything else. Kate is not a loveable character, but rather a flawed, isolated, possibly selfish character that I’m not sure I would remain friends should I ever meet her in real life. The entire story is narrated by Kate, and knowing that she is flawed makes her rather an unreliable narrator.

There is no question that Vi believes she has powers, and secretly, unconsciously, both Kate and her father believe she does too. Vi has predicted that an earthquake will happen in St Louis, and there are many things in this story – not just shifting of earth – that could ultimately be classed as “quakes” in the lives of the people involved.

In summary then: it took me longer to read than I would have expected for a book this length (approximately a week) but this had nothing to do with the book. For a book with long chapters detailing often small things, I did not feel bogged down with it or even considering ditching it as I was enjoying it. The multiple time line switches can confuse and annoy some people – how she and Hank met and became friends comes practically at the end of the story for instance – but I personally found it kept my interest rather than detracting from the story.


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