Review

Sisterland

by Curtis Sittenfeld

Daisy and Violet Schramm are identical twin sisters who grow up in a suburb of St. Louis during the ’80s and ’90s. From an early age, Daisy and Vi have psychic powers, frequently predicting events that will happen. Vi has embraced these powers, eventually becoming a professional psychic medium. But Daisy has never felt at ease with them, making sure that no one knows about the gift of her peculiar “senses” after a traumatic middle-school experience. 

It is now 2009, and Daisy has returned to St. Louis after graduating college. She is happily married to Jeremy, and they have two small children: two-year-old Rosie and six-month-old Owen. Daisy now uses her middle name Kate (short for Kathleen) and is a stay-at-home mom. Kate and Jeremy’s best friends are their neighbors, Hank and Courtney. Together with Jeremy, Courtney teaches at Washington University in the geology department. Hank, an artist, is a stay-at-home dad to Amelia. In the two years they have known each other, Kate and Hank have become good friends as they and their children spend so much time together.

"Curtis Sittenfeld is a gifted storyteller, and SISTERLAND is a well-written, at times humorous novel that expertly explores the meaning of family, daily domestic life, and deep sibling bonds."

One early morning, the city of St. Louis feels tremors from an earthquake in Indiana, and Vi is interviewed on local TV where she predicts: “Another earthquake is coming soon. A powerful, powerful earthquake.” Kate sees the interview and is horrified, as she always has been embarrassed by Vi’s openness about her psychic abilities. She confides to Vi that she thinks the actual date of the earthquake is October 16th. Armed with this information, Vi reveals the date to Matt Lauer while being interviewed on “Today.” Suddenly, every national and local media outlet wants to interview her, and Kate, worried that her wacky sister with say something she shouldn’t, hires a public relations professional to handle the media. While the city prepares for the upcoming earthquake, Kate goes about her everyday life taking care of her children and keeping an eye on her elderly father.

The earthquake prediction is the catalyst for the novel, but at its heart, SISTERLAND is about the complex relationship between Kate and Vi.

“Our room, which was usually a mess, had a sign on the door that Vi had posted when we were in fourth grade and neither of us had taken down since:

SISTERLAND
POPULATION 2
DO NOT ENTER WITHOUT PERMSISSION!

If asked during elementary and middle school, I would never have claimed that Vi was my best friend. I might not even have said I liked her that much.”

But Kate does in fact love her dearly, although she is critical of the choices Vi has made (dropping out of Reed College, becoming a professional psychic, deciding she is a lesbian).

October 16th finally arrives, and the earthquake everyone expects does not happen: “It was raining when I awakened in the morning, and I thought, Vi’s wrong. There wasn’t going to be an earthquake. I knew because I’d never heard Vi mention rain, because it had never occurred to me that October 16 would be rainy, and yet the rain had that murmuring, all-day quality, as if it were pacing itself. But even as I felt relief, even as I thought about how removing the wall hangings and putting away the china had been a waste of time, I still wanted the day to be over.”

What Kate doesn’t realize is that, before the day is over, she will experience her own personal earthquake, the effects of which will change her life forever.

The bestselling author of PREP, THE MAN OF MY DREAMS and AMERICAN WIFE has another winner on her hands. Curtis Sittenfeld is a gifted storyteller, and SISTERLAND is a well-written, at times humorous novel that expertly explores the meaning of family, daily domestic life, and deep sibling bonds.

Reviewed by Jennifer Romanello on June 28, 2013

Sisterland
by Curtis Sittenfeld

  • Publication Date: May 6, 2014
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0812980336
  • ISBN-13: 9780812980332