“She would say that we create our own reality-that the truth, ultimately, is what we choose to believe.”
Daisy and Violet Shramm are identical twin sisters who grew up in St. Louis to an ambivalent mother and a much older father. They are also psychic.
In the more present day Daisy, now going by Kate, is a stay at home mom to two young kids and the wife of a college professor, Jeremy Tucker, who teaches geology at the local university. She has renounced her psychic past and has done her best to lessen her powers over the years. Violet, on the other hand, has recently come out as a lesbian and is a practicing psychic both personally and professionally. An earthquake hits St. Louis at the beginning of the story and Violet gets a premonition that another, bigger earthquake is around the corner. She goes on the local news and then the Today Show which sends the city into a panic. Courtney Wheeling, one of Jeremy’s coworkers and the wife of Kate’s close friend, gives a counter interview to Violet’s psychic earthquake prediction. Courtney is set up to be something of a villain in the story or at least the foil to our “heroine” Kate. The only other story line she is given involves aborting a baby with Down-syndrome.
“Maybe I have always been, as Vi would subsequently accuse me, someone who creates obstacles for myself than looks around in surprise, wondering where they came from.”
So Kate, who knows her sister is psychic and wholeheartedly believes the earthquake prediction, begins to go a bit off the rails. She wants Jeremy to cancel an upcoming business trip, she buys all sorts of supplies to get through a potential power loss and takes all the family’s decorations off the walls. When Jeremy leaves for his business trip the day before the predicted earthquake it deeply upsets Kate who is narrating from the not too distant future and knows the outcome of the events the follow their fight. It isn’t much of a spoiler to say that Sisterland isn’t really about an earthquake.
Kate is an awful narrator though. She often buries the lead and there is an unnecessary amount of flashbacks to the Shramm sisters’ childhoods and early adult-hoods which just further weighs down the story. It seemed like every little detail Sittenfeld thought up while writing her first draft made the final cut! I understand and appreciate the story that Sittenfeld was trying to tell but overall the execution was sloppy. It also doesn’t help that Kate isn’t particularly likable.