Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Book Review: Sisterland

Although I couldn't put this novel down (reading it well into the night, two nights running), it still isn't a novel I feel I can recommend wholeheartedly.  There were too many things about it that didn't sit well with me: lesbian relationship, marital infidelity, and not-so-subtly nuanced sex scenes.  There was still value in the story, a complex story of identical twins who are not always identical in their approach to life, but it was muddied a bit.

Daisy and Violet Shramm are unlike others because they possess a strange ability to sense impending danger.  They are also unlike each other.  While Violet wants to maximize her "senses," Daisy (who calls herself Kate to provide distance from their past and their reputations) wants to limit her use of the special gift.  Their relationship is fraught with conflict and it almost seems impossible that they could be identical twins (one a lesbian, the other a suburban mother, one an attention hog, the other a private, self-effacing individual).

So what drives this novel?  After experiencing a minor earthquake, Violet is convinced that her spirit guide, "Guardian," has informed her of the immanence of a more powerful approaching earthquake.  She is interviewed on television and her prediction goes viral.  This, of course, makes Daisy/Kate uncomfortable, especially so since her husband works with scientists who quickly discourage the prediction.   Still, the public is enthralled and although Daisy wants to distance herself from it, she also complies by providing a specific date which she has sensed. 

Spoiler alert: I spent most of the novel waiting to find out if the prediction would come true.  Then, when the outcome was revealed, I was still caught up wondering if it would just happen at a later date.  Then, the author increased the suspense level by introducing the marital infidelity (which seemed unrealistic, given that there wasn't a whole lot of spousal friction and the man had just endured a horrendous scene of prejudice).  Would Kate tell her husband about her infidelity or keep it a secret?  Would she end up pregnant by this other man (a situation which would be obvious since he is black and both she and her husband are white)? Would she abort the baby (as one character in the novel does because a test indicated the baby would have Down's Syndrome - another bit where I internally shuddered) or keep it?  Thus, I kept turning pages, despite my discomfort with various aspects of the story line.

I think I was most intrigued by a relatively small scene in the story because it mirrored our experience this summer with my youngest son.  In the story, Kate's daughter develops a swollen eye and ends up in the hospital in critical condition because the infection was not diminishing and could lead to meningitis.  It was wild observing the events unfolding in such a similar manner to what we experienced in the end of July.

So, I can't discount this novel entirely.  It was interesting and compelling enough to keep me reading.  It contained a snippet torn from the pages of my own life experience.  The writing was very good and not muddied further with lots of foul language [someone on FB recently mentioned foul language, but spelled it "fowl" and it took everything I had not to respond with a comment like "Aw, chicken-nuts" - hee-hee!]. The author did a great job of developing and fleshing out the characters.  I just couldn't embrace many aspects of the novel, thus it doesn't get higher marks in my book.

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