Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Review: My Sister, My Love by Joyce Carol Oates.

Book: My Sister, My Love.

Author: Joyce Carol Oates.

Pages: 562

How Long It Took Me To Read: 4 days.

Plot Summary: Herein is the unexpurgated first-person narrative of nineteen-year-old Skyler Rampike, the only surviving child of an "infamous" American family destroyed a decade ago by the murder of Skyler’s six-year-old ice-skating champion sister, Bliss, and the media scrutiny that followed. Part investigation into the unsolved murder, part elegy for the lost Bliss and for his own lost childhood, Skyler’s narrative is an alternately harrowing and corrosively funny exposÉ of upper-middle-class American pretensions—and an unexpectedly subtle and sympathetic exploration of those who dwell in "Tabloid Hell."

General Thoughts and Review: This book is the fictionalized re-telling (of sorts) of a real life crime. The death of a 6 year old  beauty pageant winner called Jon-Benet Ramsay and the media scrutiny it brought on the family. The case still remains unsolved but people, the media and law enforcers have all had their theories on who was the perpetrator of the crime. The family- parents and an older brother were long time suspects but nothing was ever proved. 

Now, I knew of the Jon Benet case, I had heard it mentioned on a TV show or read about it in another crime book, I also read a little about the actual case as I was reading this book, so I had a bit of additional information. If you don't know about the case at's fine, it doesn't in any way take away from enjoying this book. 

First up, the writing is really good. Joyce Carol Oates brings the Rampike family to life, every nuance, every flaw and every detail small and big gives us a look inside this family's life. The parents, their messed up marriage and the mother's need to have a child be a star is both funny and incredibly sad. Skyler's character is especially well-written and real and genuinely heart-breaking. 

The book is told from Skyler's perspective, in his voice and all his memories of his family, of Bliss and his childhood. Now for most part this is a good thing. The only thing I didn't like was, as Skyler was telling his story he was awkward and constantly second guessing his writing skills. Erm..OK, I guess the self-doubt was meant to come across as realistic- Skyler, is after all, a hapless 19 year old writing for the first time about the worst thing to have ever happened to him, but his constant worrying about his writing chops got a little boring. 

The book is an interesting look inside a dysfunctional family. A mother obsessed with stardom, she is a typical stage mom and there were times you wanted to reach inside the pages of the book and shake her and make her love her kids for who they are and not what they can be. The father is just absent at best and cold and uncaring at worst. 

Your heart breaks for the kids. Especially Skyler. 

This is a sad book. So if you aren't mentally ready for this book to wreck havoc on your heart...stay away. 

I did enjoy this book for most part and even though this is a very dense read, it is a good one. 

Rating: 3/5 

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