Tuesday, January 28, 2014
In present day St. Louis, Daisy, now called Kate, is married to a sweet guy named Jeremy and has two small children. While they no longer live in Sisterland, Kate and Vi are still connected both psychically and emotionally. When Vi makes a public prediction that an earthquake is imminent, Kate is horrified and humiliated, and yet cannot prevent herself from getting drawn into the controversy.
Kate’s got other problems, too, including a long-simmering attraction to a stay-at-home dad from the neighborhood, a nursing baby and a needy toddler, the laundry, the grocery shopping, the bad wardrobe, and a father who develops angina while visiting a prostitute. This book exhausted me, and I’m not even mentioning the abortion subplot(s).* But life is like that – the clothes still need to be washed, even when your sister is generating widespread panic in the city where you live.
Sittenfeld tells a good story but I’m not in love with her writing style in this book. Her prose is sometimes inelegant and repetitive; why is that? But she also makes profound, elemental observations about families, fate, and destinies; here she just serves them up on paper plates rather than fine china. If you liked Prep (Sittenfeld’s first breakout book) you will probably like this, though it’s not nearly as good as American Wife, which is a more sophisticated and polished book in every way.
*Abortion subplots (or plots) are a rare thing indeed in 21st century fiction and television. I think writers avoid this most polarizing topic out of fear and I congratulate Sittenfeld for even attempting it. Two different pregnant women contemplate abortion; one chooses it and the other doesn't. I tried not to read any kind of moral judgment into the characters' choices, and I don't think Sittenfeld was ascribing any, but it's hard not to think about it.
(Book 1, 2014)