Shaken

Sisterland (NetGalley)
Curtis Sittenfeld
release date: June 25,2013

Daisy and Violet were identical twins who couldn’t have been more different. Daisy longs to fit in; Violet couldn’t have cared less. Daisy is pretty; Violet overweight. Daisy has the perfect family: loving husband, toddler Rosie and baby Owen; in her 30s Violet is still single and trying to “decide” whether or not she’s gay. But the girls do share a depressed mother who can’t get out of bed most days and a distant father. They watch TV and play-act away long afternoons when they’re not in school in the bedroom refuge they call ‘Sisterland’.  And perhaps most important of all, they they share the “senses”.

When she was four, Violet was awakened by a nightmare of a neighbor’s house burning. The next night a neighbor lost their home in a fire. About the same time, Vi wondered why “Aunt Emma’s heart hurt” and only months later Aunt Emma died of a heart attack. The girls could hear each other’s thoughts and knew their incredible gift set them apart even more than their twin-ness.It was in middle school that Daisy started to turn away from her senses after a disastrous slumber party and a turn at the Ouiji board–in that awful middle school way, their classmates label the girls witches. Vi, however, continues to embrace her gift and in college encounters a “crazy yellow light” and a voice that tells her, “You’re not meant to suffer … you’re on a journey of discovery.” Violet drifts and Daisy settles.

Eventually, Violet ends up using her senses to help police find a kidnapped youngster and begins to support herself as a psychic. Daisy puts all that senses nonsence behind her, changes her name to Kate, and begins the perfect family she always wanted. Life seems good. Until the earthquake. In a rare twist of the earth, St. Louis experiences a minor earthquake that shakes their world. Violet predicts another one. She’s interviewed (twice!) on the Today Show. Daisy’s loyalties are torn between her New Age sister and her scientist husband–she can’t seem to ignore Violet’s sense–and she lives in dread that the earthquake will (or won’t) occur.

Author Curtis Sittenfeld was a master at capturing childhood in the 70s and 80s. Who over 40 can’t remember watching soap operas after school and “eating either Cool Ranch Doristos, Wonder bread toast topped with butter and  cinnamon sugar, or tiny pieces of American cheese melted in the microwave onto Triscuits”? Sittenfeld caught the social lives of tweens and their insecurities almost perfectly. We also come to feel  acutely the desparation which impels Daisy to build (and hold on to) the house of cards home she’s built.

No spoiler alert here–even if I tell you there is an earthquake. Because not every earthquake we experience is literal and it just might be that we all have a bit of the senses.

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