Curtis Sittenfeld, Sisterland
Sisterland is the story of two sisters, Kate (born Daisy) and Vi (Violet). The narrations shifts between the past, as the two sisters grow up with a depressive mother and gifts of ESP, and the present, where a threat is looming, after a first (small) earthquake, and Vi’s prediction of a much bigger one.
Sisterland is narrated from the point of view of Kate, the “normal” sister, the one who is a stay-at-home mother with two kids. Kate is the one who renounced her psychic abilities, since she suffered, in her childhood, of their consequences (she has been called a witch and has lost a few friends). She spends her days at the park with her children and Hank, a stay-at-home father whose wife works with Kate’s husband. Her sister Vi, on the other side, lives from her gift, giving readings and holding group meditations. She is 60 pounds overweight and is currently dating women. Both take care of their father, who lives alone since the death of their mother, years ago.
As the past unfolds the often uneasy relationship between the two sisters, and the different paths their lives have taken, the present is lived under the idea of impending disaster predicted by Vi, and that will take a form that nobody could have predicted.
The idea of two sisters with ESP is a very good one, but I thought the novel itself is a mixed bag. While it was interesting to learn about the evolution of the relationship between the two sisters, and a bit suspenseful to see how Vi’s prediction would unfold, I thought that it was not clear to determine what the author wanted the novel to be about. As a novel about two sister with ESP, the ESP is too anecdotic, as a story simply about the relationship between too sisters, it is somehow weak, diluted with unrelated facts (problems of racism, through the Hank character, or adultery). For a story focused on a relationship between sisters, it also lacks the point of view of one of them.
I loved Perp, and American Wife, two very different novels but each strong and remarkable, but I thought that Sisterland lacked focus. What was it exactly the author wanted to tell us? There story looses itself in its circumvolutions and goes in too many directions, therefore failing to impact the reader. Still, I enjoyed reading it, on the whole…