In February, I wrote a post about DNF-ing books. In that post, I told the story of why I reviewed Curtis Sittenfeld’s Man of My Dreams even though I didn’t like it. I felt that the reader should know that an author’s sophomore’s effort was a let down after her wildly popular debut (in this case, Prep).
I was happy, then, that Sittenfeld’s third book The American Wife seemed to be a return to form. I devoured that novel, and bought her new novel Sisterland as soon as it came out. It falls somewhere in the middle between Man of My Dreams and The American Wife – disappointing but not a terrible book.
Sisterland is about twins Violet and Daisy. They have what they call “senses” – either able to predict an event happening in the future, or know something about someone without knowing why (i.e. that a classmate will die young). Violet chooses to tune into these senses and brands works as a psychic. Daisy starts telling people that her name is Kate (a shortened version of her middle name) and tries to destroy her abilities.
This works, though not perfectly. Daisy/Kate can’t shut everything down, and she’s always fighting with Violet – over a lot of things but also their different opinions on their ability. Then Violet says that a major earthquake is going to destroy St. Louis. The Today Show catches on, and the story unwinds from there.
My problem with Sisterland is the second half. The book just falls apart the closer the story moves to the predicted date of the earthquake, and Kate starts doing things that don’t make sense. At all. I can’t say what because I’d ruin the plot, but there is nothing in the first half or even first three quarter of the book that would indicate her actions at the end.
Sisterland isn’t terrible, not in the way Man of My Dreams was. The built in deadline of the earthquake gives tension to the novel, especially on the day of, but that tension is hard as a reader to enjoy when the characters are off doing unrealistic things.