Synopses & Reviews
Curtis Sittenfeld, New York Times
bestselling author of American Wife
returns with a mesmerizing novel of family and identity, loyalty and deception, and the delicate line between truth and belief.
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 a devastating earthquake will soon hit the St. Louis area, Kate is mortified. More 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 truths about herself she’s long tried to deny.
Funny, haunting, and thought-provoking, Sisterland is a beautifully written novel of the obligation we have toward others, and the responsibility we take for ourselves. With her deep empathy, keen wisdom, and unerring talent for finding the extraordinary moments in our everyday lives, Curtis Sittenfeld is one of the most exceptional voices in literary fiction today.
"There's a fizzing, daring originality to Sisterland that draws you in and takes your breath away. When it comes to tearing apart contemporary American family life one microscopic fibre at a time, Sittenfeld is up there in a class of her own."
The Guardian (UK)
"A rich portrait of intricate relationships within and among families by one of commercial fiction's smartest, most perceptive practitioners."
Kirkus (starred review)
"Delicious insights into sisterhood and motherhood are peppered throughout Sittenfeld's novel about identical twins with ESP....[T]he twins... are rendered so vividly that readers would be able to pick them out of a crowd....A rich and intimate tale of imperfect, well-meaning, ordinary people struggling to define themselves and protect the people they love."
About the Author
Curtis Sittenfeld is the bestselling author of the novels Prep, The Man of My Dreams, and American Wife, which have been translated into twenty-five languages. Her nonfiction has been published by The New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, Salon, Allure, and Glamour, and broadcast on public radio’s This American Life. She graduated from Stanford and the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.
Reading Group Guide
1. What and where is Sisterland? If you have a sister, do you see any of your own relationship with her reflected in the relationship between Kate and Vi?
2. The novel opens with a description of the 1811 earthquake in New Madrid, although everything that follows is set in the near-present. Why do you think the novel begins in this way? How does the historical context change how we see Kate’s story?
3. Do you believe that people can have psychic powers? Have you ever experienced strong intuitions about events that happened later?
4. Do you understand why Kate tries to escape her powers? Would you prefer, like Kate, to be normal, or to be special, like Vi?
5. Kate transforms herself from Daisy Shramm to Kate Tucker. How do names define and shape us?
6. Near the end of the novel, Kate and Vi make an important discovery about their “senses” that upsets everything they thought they knew. Were you as surprised by this revelation as the twins? How do you think it might change their understanding of their childhood?
7. Do Kate and Jeremy have a good marriage?
8. Were you surprised by Kate’s choices at the end? How will her family’s life in the future be different from what it was in the past? Do you think it’s plausible that she can continue to conceal her secret indefinitely?
9. Twins are intriguing to many people. Do you think the interest they elicit is justified? Have you known twins in your own life? If you are a twin, did Sittenfeld’s portrayal of them strike you as realistic?
10. Have you read any of Curtis Sittenfeld’s other novels? If so, do you think this one is like or unlike her earlier work?