Share This Page

Plenty to enjoy in author Curtis Sittenfeld's 'Sisterland'

| Saturday, July 27, 2013, 6:29 p.m.

The high-concept premise of “Sisterland,” the wise and often wickedly entertaining new novel by Curtis Sittenfeld (“American Wife,” “Prep”), might lead some readers to expect a sci-fi or fantasy yarn. If so, they will be largely disappointed — although they might find plenty of other things to admire.

Not that readers who like a dollop of genre fiction to spice up their literary consumption will be put entirely out of sorts. “Sisterland” does center on twin sisters, Kate and Violet, who once shared certain psychic powers, in particular clairvoyance and the ability to learn other people's secrets.

Violet has embraced her gifts, making a career for herself as a sort of medium, while Kate has suppressed her own abilities to make herself as “normal” as possible as a suburban wife and mother of two children.

When Violet goes on television to predict a major earthquake in the St. Louis area where they live, Kate is beside herself, and the fact that Violet is pursuing a romantic relationship with another woman doesn't help. Things get even more complicated when Kate — who isn't nearly as “normal” as she pretends to be — puts her comfortable existence, including her marriage, at risk with an unwise extramarital adventure.

Fortunately, this relationship between the two sisters is strong enough to survive earthquakes of all sorts, literal and otherwise. And it's here that Sittenfeld — who has made a name for herself as an able miner of human folly in all its most colorful variations — excels.

In the end, “Sisterland” is not about psychic phenomena, seismology or any of the other attention-getting topics it dips it toes into. It's about love and family, secrets and the imperfect ways they're kept, and the necessity of accepting that we can't always behave in the way most consonant with our own best interests. We do dumb things, and we have to learn from them and live with them as best we can.

Readers who have siblings — especially women with sisters — will likely come away feeling as if the author really is psychic, able to learn the truth of their own dark secrets, and forgive them.

Kevin Nance is a contributing writer for USA Today.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.