Sisterland is about identical twin sisters, both with psychic abilities, but with diverging ideas on what that means for them. One, Violet, embraces her gift while the other, Daisy, rejects them in favor of living a “normal life”.
This disharmony is at the center of the book, and, as such, was a delight to read. Sittenfeld was a bit of a darling around these parts thanks to Eligible (and the fact that one of us knew her at one time), so I knew that I’d give her a shot at some point. The Pride and Prejudice angle of Eligible had little appeal for me, so this seemed like a good entry point.
And I don’t regret it, even though it’s delightedly less sci-fi/fantasy than the plot outline might make it seem. Sittenfeld’s characterizations are superb. The relationship between Vi and Daisy not only felt familiar (I have a sister, and my wife has one, too, which is probably a more applicable relationship), and even reminded me of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl. Further, the marriage between Daisy and Jeremy felt fully formed and authentic, if a little too perfect (which I think was intentional).
Sittenfeld sprinkles the narrative with Daisy’s memories of adolescence and young adulthood, as she and Vi drift apart, and each girl develops into her own woman. These were, for me, the best parts of the book. I felt like the path of each character was clearly defined and made sense within the larger context of the story.
This was a 5-star book for the vast majority of it’s length. But, ultimately, it’s hard to construct a story around people arguing with one another without a few of the characters losing some of their likability. Violet is perhaps a little too flighty to be entirely sympathetic, and Jeremy is, at times, too unsupportive to be entirely likable. We’re seeing everything from Daisy’s perspective, so when she’s the aggrieved person in the relationship, it’s hard to not take her side.
But I can deal with that. We’re probably supposed to take her side over her overly-logical husband or far too illogical sister.
And then………Daisy [minor SPOILERS] does something fairly horrendous. In most situations, one could even say what she does is unforgivable. But on top of the objectively terrible decision-making on her part, I didn’t feel like it was within her character to behave in the way she did. I want to keep the spoilers of the minor variety, so I won’t go into too much detail, but this book didn’t end up where I was expecting, and it felt a little melodramatic to me.
Despite my reservations about the ultimate direction of the novel, I found this to be an engaging read, and I think Sittenfeld is a good enough writer that’ll I’ll probably search out more of her books. But I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t express that I’m kind of let down by the direction this book took.
But the first 85% of the book was as close to being a page turner as these kinds of novels are likely to get.
This has been reviewed 5 times for CBR, with an average rating of 2.60 (I can understand the low score, but I’m more generous, I guess).