My Sister, My Loveby Joyce Carol Oates
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… See more details below
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."
Oates revisits in fantastic fashion the JonBenet Ramsay murder, replacing the famous family with the Rampikes-father Bix, a bully and compulsive philanderer; mother Betsey, obsessed with making her daughter, Bliss, into a prize-winning figure skater; and son Skyler, the narrator of this tale of ambition, greed and tragedy. Skyler's voice-leaden with grief and guilt-is sometimes that of the nine-year-old he was when his sister was killed, and sometimes the teen he is now, 10 years later, when a letter from his dying mother "solves" the mystery of Bliss's death. The emotionally wrecked Rampike children are collateral damage in a vicious marital battle; Sky is shunted aside, while Bliss is ruthlessly manipulated. Stylistic tricks (direct-address footnotes chief among them) lighten Oates's razor-sharp satire of a privileged enclave where social-climbing neighbors dwell in gargantuan houses; as Oates's readers will expect, the novel is long, propelled at breakneck speed and apt to indulge in verbal excess (as in the 55-page novella within the novel). Oates's psychological acuity, however, ranks this novel as one of the best from a dark observer of our lives and times. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
National Book Award winner Oates crafts a scathing commentary on life's excesses in 21st-century America's social-climbing, money-driven, overmedicated suburbs. Narrator Mike Chamberlain (Spanking Shakespeare) captures the querulous, childish voices of 19-year-old Skyler Rampike and his sister, Bliss, an ice-skating prodigy murdered at the age of six. Chamberlain's portrayals of bluff, crass father Bix and the mother, bipolar religious nut Betsy, too, come alive; characters of minor importance to the story show less diversity. Of interest to public and academic libraries as well as to Oates fans. [Audio clip available through
Joanna M. Burkhardt
Oates examines a family made famous first by the success, and then by the murder of their six-year-old ice-skating star, Bliss Rampike. Through 19-year-old Skyler, readers are introduced to the family. They know that his younger sister has been killed. But by whom, and why? The author holds back nothing in this portrait of a family gone horribly wrong: two egotistical, noncommunicative adults raising their firstborn, who cannot live up to their expectations or their own dreams, and their daughter, who tries. Readers see not only the relentless striving of the mother for fame and fortune, but also the manipulation of her son. Skyler tells of his memories (he was nine when his sister died) and of the present with appropriately excruciating detail-the overwhelming intrusion of the outside world, the public damning of his family, and the repercussions he suffers. The first-person narrative requires close attention to the web of lies and intrigue that the author spins. The use of footnotes by Skyler may confuse some teens, but the insights contained in them are invaluable. This is not a quick read, but rather a painful scrutiny of society and the things people often value. Give this book to advanced readers who will want to solve the mystery, and who want to study the dynamics of a dysfunctional family and/or of a society driven mad by media coverage. Intelligent and thought-provoking.-Janet Melikian, Central High School East, Fresno, CA
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