One of my favorite writers is Curtis Sittenfeld. I was so excited when I heard she had a new book out, a follow-up to her last novel, American Wife, which was released in 2008. Was it that long ago? 5 years was a long time to wait for a new book!! American Wife was a masterpiece, a fictionalized biography of Laura Bush. This book, of course not a real biography, was intensely researched, and included many details of Mrs. Bush’s life. It brought me to tears, and had me rethinking my opinion of the Bush family. Sittenfeld is a great storyteller, and has a knack for evoking sympathy and emotion for the most unlikely characters.
Her newest book Sisterland was released this summer to much anticipation. This new tale focuses on the relationship of identical twins Daisy and Violet. What I found most interesting about this book was the location: St Louis, my hometown. After countless books that have been focused on New York, in which authors assume or expect readers to be either familiar – or interested – in the city, this was refreshing. When referring to neighborhoods, restaurants, city landmarks, I knew exactly what she was talking about! Setting may not always be the most important part of a novel, but for me the detail and attention paid to the city itself was incredible, considering Sittenfeld herself does not live there.
Unlike their appearance, the twins could not be more different. After a rather unconventional upbringing, Daisy seeks stability and convention, while Violet is more of a free spirit. With various flashbacks throughout the book, chroniciling their younger years, the novel begins while the women are 34. The one thing that strengthens their bond is their clairvoyant abilities. Daisy, in her attempts to be as “normal” as possible, has denied this gift, and has even changed her name – going by Kate (which comes from her middle name, Katherine). Vi has embraced her power, and works as a medium. The story is focused on Vi’s big prediction of an earthquake, based on the New Madrid fault line in Missouri, which gains worldwide recognition. This, of course, creates drama between the two sisters.
“Of course I understood; even at her most impossible, Vi had never said or done anything I could not imagine saying or doing myself, if I had less self-control and respect for convention. But her tone was rubbing me the wrong way, and I said, “Sorry to disappoint you.” – 97
Like all sisters, they fight, they disagree, and their lives follow different paths. They also love and respect each other on a very deep level. No matter what happens between these two, they have an unbreakable bond. The detail of their upbringing takes this story to a dark place, but it also gives insight into their relationship. They are both nurturers, yet in very different ways.
This is a really good book. It’s not great, and it doesn’t measure up to the greatness of her earlier novels, Prep, and American Wife, but that’s a tall order! After so long after her last novel was published, I of course gobbled it up! Now onto the rest of my long list of new fall books!