Google+ YA Romantics: Branching Out: Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Branching Out: Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld



Welcome to Branching Out, a new feature in which I'll occasionally read and review a non-YA book that I think will have appeal to fans of YA.

My Branching Out selection this time around is adult fiction:

Sisterland
by Curtis Sittenfeld
To be published by Random House
on June 25, 2013

Source: I received an e-ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss.



Summary (from Goodreads:) From an early age, Kate and her identical twin sister, Violet, knew that they were unlike everyone else. Kate and Vi were born with peculiar “senses”—innate psychic abilities concerning future events and other people’s secrets. Though Vi embraced her visions, Kate did her best to hide them.

Now, years later, their different paths have led them both back to their hometown of St. Louis. Vi has pursued an eccentric career as a psychic medium, while Kate, a devoted wife and mother, has settled down in the suburbs to raise her two young children. But when a minor earthquake hits in the middle of the night, the normal life Kate has always wished for begins to shift. After Vi goes on television to share a premonition that another, more devastating earthquake will soon hit the St. Louis area, Kate is mortified. Equally troubling, however, is her fear that Vi may be right. As the date of the predicted earthquake quickly approaches, Kate is forced to reconcile her fraught relationship with her sister and to face truths about herself she’s long tried to deny.

Why I chose this book:  I enjoyed Prep, Curtis Sittenfeld's 2005 debut novel. With its teenaged narrator and coming of age themes, Prep is definitely a book that would appeal to adult readers of YA.  Sisterland also has some themes that are beloved by YA readers, namely the sister relationships and the paranormal twist of the sister's psychic abilities.

My take: Sisterland is a fascinating story about love, science, and the paranomal. Twins Daisy and Violet have drastically different comfort levels with their psychic abilities. Vi embraced her gifts and gained minor notoriety as a psychic. Daisy chose a more pedestrian path. Now known as Kate -- her middle name -- she married a scientist who regards his wife's confessions of past psychic visions with bemusement.

But when Vi publicly predicts that a devastating earthquake will strike and is swept into an ever-escalating media circus, Kate must come to terms with some difficult truths about herself, such as her experience helping Vi locate a kidnapped boy years before, and her deepest feelings about her psychic gifts. Is Vi a visionary or a dangerous, self-deluded charlatan? Was Kate right to try to suppress her psychic abilities, or in doing so is she denying an important part of herself?

The story intertwines domestic tensions -- Kate's husband's career ambitions and her frustrations as a stay-at-home mom, the contrast between Kate's conventional married life and Vi's sudden decision to date women -- with conflicts between science and intuition. Kate, Vi, and Kate's friend Hank, a stay-at-home dad, are in the artistic/intuitive camp, while Kate's husband and Hank's wife are rational scientists and colleagues. As Vi makes the morning talk show circuit, the scientists insist that Vi is absolutely, positively, even dangerously wrong. Tension rises as the predicted date of the earthquake draws near. While the story's climactic event was a bit melodramatic, it was also perfectly set up by everything that preceded it and forced most of the characters to confront their differing ideas about the limits of love, faith, and science.

Try it if you liked:


Please Ignore Vera Dietz Tumble & Fall Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A. S. King also did a masterful job of blending the ordinary and domestic with the mysterious and unexplained, as parts of the book are narrated by a dead character. And a pagoda. While PIVD fully embraces magical realism and Sisterland takes more of an evenhanded approach to the whole science vs. paranormal stand-off, both books feature wonderful writing and realistic family relationships

In a weird coincidence, I read another pre-apocalypic book, Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts, right before Sisterland. No twins in Tumble & Fall, but it also does look at the way people's lives and relationships are affected as disaster looms on the horizon.

The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May & June, about a trio of sisters with paranormal abilities, is probably the most obvious YA comparison to Sisterland. It's more light in tone, but shares some of the same elements.

The Cahill Witch Chronicles (Born Wicked and Star Cursed) by Jessica Spotswood focuses more on the political implications of women with paranormal abilities, but the strained relationship between Maura and Cate did remind me a little of Daisy and Vi.

Have you read Prep or Sisterland? Or do you have any other paranormal sisters book recommendations?

29 comments:

  1. I think I will want to check this one out. You know I adore books with sisters and I'm always open to adult books with YA crossover potential. Tumble & Fall is also one of my most anticipated reads of the year so comparison is cool to see.

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    1. Not sure that teen readers will appreciate this one -- I'd recommend they read Prep instead -- but I do think that adult readers of YA -- and fans of books about sisters -- will really like this!

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  2. I love your little Branching Out pic at the top! This actually sounds like something I may like so thank you for sharing! :)

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    1. I really enjoyed it -- gave me a lot to think about!

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  3. Thanks for sharing this one; I hadn't heard of it but it sounds really good.

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  4. This sounds so interesting! I'm looking forward to Tumble & Fall but I didn't even realize it was pre-apocalypic from the cover.

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    1. Is pre-apocalyptic a real genre? I say that it is!

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  5. I like stories about twins. And this one sounds cool. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    Andreea

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  6. Great idea1 I love this. I do branch out and read other books. It helps so it doesn't feel like I'm reading the same thing over and over again. Cause sometimes YA can feel like that. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. I do read widely, but I have never reviewed a non-YA book on the blog before. It won't be a regular thing, but it was fun!

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  7. I've been really wanting to read Sisterland after reading a few reviews on adult blogs I follow, and I'm thrilled to hear that you liked it. Also comparing it to Please Ignore Vera Dietz which is AWESOME sauce definitely has me more excited to pick this one up. Great review Jen!

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    1. I really enjoyed it. While Sisterland is different from Vera, I think YA readers who like literary books will enjoy it!

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  8. I like the sound of this. It's not one I would normally pick up, so I'm happy to see you enjoyed it. Great review! :)

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    1. I started reading YA because I was so, so tired of reading women's fiction about women whose husbands dumped them, etc. etc. I still read adult fiction -- I just choose carefully!

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  9. I like the sound of love, science and the paranormal, so this may be one I should pick up. Great feature and review Jen

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    1. I really loved the way it looked at science and the paranormal.

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  10. I just found out about this book the other day, but I'm definitely going to have to read it at some point. I really enjoyed Sittenfeld's Prep and I am intrigued that this story is more paranormal. And for an adult audience. I just love stories that focus on female relationships - friendships, family bonds, whatever. I just like it when focuses are not on romance but other types of relationships that we form with people. And wow does this book sound emotionally fraught. I love your review and definitely will need to pick this up myself!
    Also, I actually haven't read any of your YA comparison novels, but I really like the idea of this feature! I try not to label my blog as YA because I know I'm going to want to read and review some non-YA reads, but this is a really good idea of how to incorporate non-YA reads to your blog!

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    1. This one is pretty different from Prep, but I think she's a smart and talented writer. I really want to read American Wife!

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  11. This is the 1st I've encountered this book. It sounds exactly like something I'd love. For sure going to add it.

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  12. I love PREP and do feel it has a lot of teen appeal, even though it's definitely an adult book. But I can't see a teen relating to the majority of the content in SISTERLAND. So much of the story is about her marriage and raising children that I think the majority of teens would be put off by it.

    This was a lovely review!

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    1. Yes, definitely! I hope I was clear enough that both of these books are ADULT books and not YA. And, yes, even though Sisterland has minimal sex and language, it's a book that adults will appreciate much more than teens.

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  13. I actually haven't read any of the comparison titles you listed, and I don't know many paranormal sister books... IMAGINARY GIRLS isn't quite paranormal, but that might be one to try? I really like the idea of this feature, Jen! And I will have to take a look at Prep. If I like it, then I'll follow your path and read this one next :). Thanks for introducing me to the book!

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  14. I love this new feature. And I LOVE sister stories. Especially when there are powers involved. (Thank you for recommending Born Wicked... seriously, one of my favorite books so far this year! Maybe you should pick my next read, too, because you are seriously 2 for 2.)

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  15. I haven't read any books mentioned but these psychic sister stories remind me of Linda and Terry Jamison. They are also psychic twin sister and I love watching their segments. I might give The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May & June a try, it sounds great! Thanks for sharing it, Jen!

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  16. I love this new feature of yours! I enjoyed The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May & June, as well as Born Wicked. I'm super interested in Tumble and Fall and now, Sisteland!

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  17. I just saw this somewhere this morning and thought I might like the sister aspect, but now you've convinced me. I haven't read any of the other books you mentioned, but I'm sold on the basis of the psychic abilities alone.

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