Sisterland, Curtis Sittenfeld
I wanted to read this book because it was about twins, albeit identical, unlike my brother and I who are fraternal. We have always had a connection to each other, and I have often felt that I had “senses”, not as a medium, but the second sense kind, which is a topic in the book, as well.
Violet and Daisy Schramm are identical twins. Daisy is the more responsible one, while Violet marches to the beat of her own drummer. Both possess psychic powers. Each treats their gift differently. Violet views it as a gift, and Daisy views it more like a curse. When she blurted out her ability, one day, to a schoolmate, she and her sister were ever afterward, labeled as witches and ridiculed. Violet, thicker skinned, is more public about her abilities while Daisy, forever after, hid hers, even changing her name to Kate. Violet is a lesbian and Daisy is in a heterosexual marriage with a husband who is rather like a saint. I wasn’t surprised about their sexual proclivities, since I know of identical twins exactly like that, who were identical in features but not personality, behavior or in body build, one also being decidedly heavier than the other. I think it may be the exception, from the twins I know, but it is definitely the case in some instances.
At first the book felt like it had credibility, for me, as minor incidents described were similar to the ones I have experienced by myself and with my brother, i.e., a foreknowledge of a tragedy about to occur, an illness, a general foreboding, a premonition which became a reality, etc. As the book continued, however, I was unable to find one cohesive theme, other than Violet’s ESP, which was used to connect many varied themes. For me, it meandered throughout the book in disjointed ways that seemed disconnected from any particular single direction, except, perhaps, to expose Vi’s and Daisy’s different approaches to life, so that they were more like separate individuals, no different than other siblings. Perhaps that was a theme, the individuality of the twin as opposed to their expected sameness; the reality that they are two different people, after all, even with their special connection.
In the end, I was unsure if this was a book about supernatural ability, romance, heterosexuality and homosexuality, with both male and female relationships, racial profiling, sex or simply the expression of a political agenda, left leaning and very “correct”. The book touched many topics: a brief illicit affair, an interracial marriage, choice for women regarding abortion, wanted and unwanted pregnancy, stay at home dads, child care outside the home, as a positive or negative, liberal politics, depression, dysfunctional marriages, sibling rivalry, and even the forgiveness of sins. It covered abandonment, neglect, and secrets between people that ultimately led to difficult situations which would have been better understood had they been exposed. So, as you can see, many emotional and political subjects were addressed, none too fully, but all absolutely presented and out there.
Ultimately, I was unsure of what the author’s message was and was a bit disappointed. I am sure there are some who will love this book, so don’t reject it because of my feelings about it. It is easy to read, but I was looking for answers, in a way, to “twinness” and the book really addressed their closeness, but nothing more for me.