Whose Story Is It?

Sisterland - Curtis Sittenfeld

I took an instant dislike to Sisterland's narrator, Kate. The woman's a little uptight.

I know she's just trying to do the right things, to hold together her family and its place in the world. She needs everything to be perfect because she believes it will all fall apart otherwise. I understand; I really do.


But seriously, she could learn a thing or two from her twin sister. Okay, Violet's a little bit out of the mainstream, what with her supposed psychic powers and all. She's overweight, a bit slovenly, not sure of her sexual preference, and generally confused about the next step in life. She's human in all the ways Kate won't let herself be.


The story revolves around Violet's visions. She "senses" things, and has predicted a major earthquake that threatens to literally break down the walls of Kate's neat little world with her husband and two small children. But will it happen? Or is Violet crazy? How do we know what is real, who to trust, when to believe?


I was fascinated by the way Sittenfeld managed to capture the spirits of both women through the eyes of Kate, without ever breaking character. It would have been tempting to switch back and forth between the two perspectives, but by sticking with Kate, Sittenfeld lets the relationship develop naturally, if not easily.


The pace lags a bit in the middle, and it's easy to forget we are counting down to "earthquake day" amidst all the family drama. The sisters' psychic powers are intriguing, but not deeply developed.


But the book isn't meant to be a spooky paranormal tale or an action-packed thriller. Instead, Sisterland offers a nuanced look at relationships between sisters, spouses, next-door-neighbors and more.