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Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

I have had Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld on my shelves for a very long time. In fact, it was the oldest audiobook I had in my Audible library. With the safer-at-home mandates, I figured there was no time like the present to pull some of these oldies out and finally get around to them.

Unfortunately, Sisterland is not good. I want to be nice and say I did not like it because I could not connect with the main protagonist, Kate/Daisy. I found her to be selfish, controlling, and interfering all while she spends the entire book justifying her behavior. I want to say that Ms. Sittenfeld’s story would be exceptional if you like Kate/Daisy. But I cannot do so because she IS the story. Hers is the only story we see, and she is the only narrator. If you don’t like her, well, you are going to be like me and not like the book.

Since all my problems hinge around my reaction to Kate/Daisy, here is why I found her to be a horrible person. And yes, I am going to spoil the hell out of this story. She is self-absorbed to the point where she thinks of herself and only thinks of others in relation to herself. All of her junior high angst occurs because she wants to hang out with the cool kids and never thinks how her going off with a different group of friends might affect her identical twin sister. The same occurs in high school and in college. We see Vi only as how Vi’s behavior affects Daisy’s life. I mean, she changes her name in college to her middle name because she is so embarrassed by being associated with her old life. The worst thing to happen to her is that the middle school girls called her a witch because she made her ESP known to others in an effort to appear cool and likable. For that, she maintains an eternal loathing of certain girls, well into adulthood, and lives in fear of being recognized as Daisy rather than Kate.

This selfish behavior escalates when Vi predicts the earthquake. From that moment, Kate spends all of her energy trying to manipulate Vi’s behavior so that it doesn’t embarrass her. She thinks nothing of Vi’s feelings. Hell, she spends $15,000, which she and her husband don’t have, in order to hire a publicist for Vi to control her behavior. Who does that? She does this without any discussion with her husband and just assumes he forgives her, which he sadly does. If that isn’t bad enough, she tries to prevent her husband, who has the patience of a saint, from going to a professional conference, at which he is presenting a paper, because this conference occurs on the day the earthquake is supposed to happen. She gets so bad at trying to guilt him into staying that she pulls out every stereotypical action in the book. Then, when he goes to the conference and nothing happens, she ends up having an affair with one of their best friends and justifies it because she was angry that her husband left. WHAT. THE. FUCK.

Kate/Daisy is one of those characters for whom I cannot muster one ounce of sympathy, nor can I empathize with her because her behavior is so far from logical and normal that I cannot put myself into her shoes. The fact that she ends up getting what amounts to a happily ever after ending – the husband forgives her betrayal and agrees to raise the illicit baby spawned by this one affair as his own – makes me sick to my stomach. Sure, Vi gets her happy ending too, but it is not because of anything Kate does for her. I wanted to see both Vi and the husband drop her like a hot potato and refuse to go near her ever again. That would have been the best ending, the only one that makes sense given Kate’s behavior throughout the course of the book.

So, yeah. I can’t like the book because I pretty much loathe the main character/narrator. I don’t have a sister, and most times I read about sister relationships, I feel like I am missing something. Not in this case though. I am so glad I don’t have a sister. There are enough things in our lives that control our actions every day. The last thing I need is an overbearing sister who is more worried about how I might embarrass her than care for who I am and whether I am happy. Two thumbs WAY down for Sisterland.

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