Thoughts on Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

 

sisterland

This book really grew on me.

It started out average. Earthquakes? Missouri? Psychics? I figured it wasn’t really my cup of tea. And at first I couldn’t quite figure out what the point of this book was.

Here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:

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.

 

If I had read that, I probably would not have picked up the book.

So why did I pick it up? Curtis Sittenfeld.

Prep was a great read. So was American Wife. And so I picked up Sisterland, not knowing what it was about.

And while I started out not liking either sister, I began to realise that Sittenfeld was kind of writing my life.

Not the psychic part (I’m the kind who goes, psychic? pfft!) or the living in Missori (never been). But the stay-at-home mum part. Because that’s a huge part of Daisy/Kate’s story. She’s a mum to two kids under the age of three. And she’s living the kind of life I lead. Not very exciting, full of dastardly details like naptime and feeding kids and other exciting logistics like figuring out that trip with their two kids isn’t going to work:

“It was, in some ways, a tempting idea. But the one plane trip we’d taken so far with both Rosie and Owen, to visit Jeremy’s family in Virginia, hadn’t gone smoothly, and the prospect of getting through the flight to Denver, convincing the children to sleep in unfamiliar cribs, all of us in the same hotel room, and looking out for them by myself for three days while Jeremy attended panels— it actually would be the opposite of a vacation. In fact, I wouldn’t even be able to take Rosie swimming without Jeremy because I couldn’t watch her and Owen in the water at the same time.”

 

I’d been sorting laundry on the dining room table when he came to say goodbye after setting his wheeled suitcase by the front door. (A suitcase filled with only the belongings of an adult; because I’d never, since their births, traveled without our children, such a prospect was unthinkable. No diapers or tubes of Desitin, no tiny shirts with butterflies or trucks on them, no copies of Goodnight Moon.)

A few years ago, if you had told me my kitchen would have Thomas the Train plates and utensils, my living room filled with colourful toys, stars hanging from the ceiling, and colours colours colours everywhere (cups, water bottles, utensils and more) around my white-walled, dark walnut-cupboarded, stainless-steel-applianced kitchen, I would’ve laughed. But here I am today, driving a 7-seater SUV (at least it’s not a minivan), a ‘kids’ playlist always ready on Spotify, my library haul mainly picture books. It is my life.

Sisterland isn’t all about this whole mummy business but that’s what really stood out for me. That Sittenfeld wrote it as if she knew what she was talking about. And that was what was important for me, as a reader, that she, well, got it.

Her sister Vi is a big part of the story (although you wouldn’t guess it since I’m all about Kate here huh) but she’s hard to like, she’s really contradictory, and well, quirky (that would be putting it really nicely), and I guess I’m just glad that she wasn’t the main character. I probably would have liked this book a lot less if that were the case.

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4 thoughts on “Thoughts on Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

  1. I felt like the depth of the book really came pounding on in the final, say, quarter; I liked it well enough before hand — perhaps mainly because, like you, I thought her earlier works were remarkable reads, Prep especially — but it was the final bit that really made me think “ooooooh, so THAT’s what you’re doing”. It’s one I might even reread, which I wouldn’t have thought earlier on in the read.

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