My Sister, My Love

( 15 )

Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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."

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Editorial Reviews

Scott Turow
“The Gravedigger’s Daughter is Joyce Carol Oates at her very best: mesmerizing, intense and unique in her vision and power.”
John Gardner
“Joyce Carol Oates is one of the great writers of our time.”
New York Times
“…there is much to admire in this bittersweet tale of one woman’s triumph of the will...engaging…”
Seattle Times
“…This book is easy to admire… my reaction was…“Wow: What a writer.””
Los Angeles Times
“Oates is just a fearless writer…[with] her brave heart and her impossibly lush and dead-on imaginative powers.”
Contra Costa Times
“…there is much to admire in this bittersweet tale of one woman’s triumph of the will...engaging…”
Entertainment Weekly
“…Oates confidently delivers another very American saga of lurid misfortune.”
USA Today
“Oates’ vivid descriptions fill the senses…what is strong is Oates’ compassionate, disturbing portrayal of life in the troubled war years…”
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“There is much to admire in this bittersweet tale of one woman’s triumph of will.”
Louisville Courier Journal
“Oates’ vivid descriptions fill the senses…what is strong is Oates’ compassionate, disturbing portrayal of life in the troubled war years…”
Chicago Tribune
“Joyce Carol Oates’s uncompromising prose illuminates the stark landscape of our times.”
New Jersey Star Ledger
“…a writer of furious gifts…”
Scott Turow
“The Gravedigger’s Daughter is Joyce Carol Oates at her very best: mesmerizing, intense and unique in her vision and power.”
Publishers Weekly

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.
Library Journal

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 library.booksontape.com; the Ecco hc received a starred review, LJ 5/1/08.]-Ed.]
—Joanna M. Burkhardt

School Library Journal

Adult/High School

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

Kirkus Reviews
Oates's 35th novel, which follows last year's flawed but interesting The Gravedigger's Daughter, is another bloated roman a clef. The subject is a notorious recent child murder, and, despite a firm prefatory disclaimer, there's no doubt that this novel's young victim was inspired, if that's the right word, by the frail figure of serial beauty contest winner JonBenet Ramsey. The book is framed as a narrative written by the late Bliss (born Edna Louise) Rampike's older brother Skyler, in hopes of exorcising conflicted feelings about his celebrity sibling: a precociously gifted figure skater whose bludgeoned body was found in the furnace room of their lavish New Jersey home, when Bliss was six and Skyler nine years old. Skyler's story is composed ten years after Bliss's death, a decade in which he had also endured the bitter collapse of his parents' storybook marriage, another traumatic death and widespread suspicion that he was his sister's killer. The pages mount up relentlessly. Oates satirizes the inordinate ambitions of Bliss's nutcase parents (father Bix is a preening skirt chaser and domestic tyrant and "Mummy" Betsey is histrionically determined to transform, first unwilling and inept Skyler, subsequently docile Edna Louise, into the champion skater Betsey never became); and she breaks the back of the narrative with Skyler's lachrymose "Teen Memory of a Lost Love," a chronicle of Skyler's botched attempt to be a "normal" high school kid. The novel does generate power from its dogged repetitive emphasis on the wretched spectacle of innocent children malformed and victimized by their foolish parents. And Oates does manage a stunningly ironic cliffhanger ending. But the novel's excessesconsume it. Years ago, Oates admitted to a "laughably Balzacian" ambition to get the whole world into a book. But comparisons to Balzac grow ever fainter with every opus horribilis like Blonde and My Sister, My Love. More likely, this author is in danger of becoming a 21st-century Upton Sinclair. A bad idea, poorly executed. Where will Oates take us next? One wonders, and fears.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061547492
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/9/2009
  • Series: P.S. Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 592
  • Sales rank: 1,430,089
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Medal of Humanities, the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, the Chicago Tribune Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Book Award, and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys; Blonde, which was nominated for the National Book Award; and the New York Times bestseller The Accursed. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978.

Biography

Joyce Carol Oates is one of the most influential and important storytellers in the literary world. She has often used her supreme narrative skills to examine the dark side of middle-class Americana, and her oeuvre includes some of the finest examples of modern essays, plays, criticism, and fiction from a vast array of genres. She is still publishing with a speed and consistency of quality nearly unheard of in contemporary literature.

A born storyteller, Oates has been spinning yarns since she was a little girl too young to even write. Instead, she would communicate her stories through drawings and paintings. When she received her very first typewriter at the age of 14, her creative floodgates opened with a torrent. She says she wrote "novel after novel" throughout high school and college -- a prolificacy that has continued unabated throughout a professional career that began in 1963 with her first short story collection, By the North Gate.

Oates's breakthrough occurred in 1969 with the publication of them, a National Book Award winner that established her as a force to be reckoned with. Since that auspicious beginning, she has been nominated for nearly every major literary honor -- from the PEN/Faulkner Award to the Pulitzer Prize -- and her fiction turns up with regularity on The New York Times annual list of Notable Books.

On average Oates publishes at least one novel, essay anthology, or story collection a year (during the 1970s, she produced at the astonishing rate of two or three books a year!). And although her fiction often exposes the darker side of America's brightest facades – familial unrest, sexual violence, the death of innocence – she has also made successful forays into Gothic novels, suspense, fantasy, and children's literature. As novelist John Barth once remarked, "Joyce Carol Oates writes all over the aesthetical map."

Where she finds the time for it no one knows, but Oates manages to combine her ambitious, prolific writing career with teaching: first at the University of Windsor in Canada, then (from 1978 on), at Princeton University in New Jersey. For all her success and fame, her daily routine of teaching and writing has changed very little, and her commitment to literature as a transcendent human activity remains steadfast.

Good To Know

When not writing, Oates likes to take in a fight. "Boxing is a celebration of the lost religion of masculinity all the more trenchant for its being lost," she says in highbrow fashion of the lowbrow sport.

Oates's Black Water, which is a thinly veiled account of Ted Kennedy's car crash in Chappaquiddick, was produced as an opera in the 1990s.

In 2001, Oprah Winfrey selected Oates's novel We Were the Mulvaneys for her Book Club.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Rosamond Smith
    2. Hometown:
      Princeton, New Jersey
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 16, 1938
    2. Place of Birth:
      Lockport, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Syracuse University, 1960; M.A., University of Wisconsin, 1961

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 15 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 16 of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2008

    Interesting premise

    As an avid reader and a huge Joyce Carol Oates fan, I was really looking forward to this book. It had an interesting premise--although disturbing because this is one more thing the real life Skylar-Burke Ramsey has to live with. The book ws choppy, although I imagine it was meant to be. It was very strangely satirical and at some points I almost put it down, something I never do. I'm glad I read it, but I am very relieved that I am finished and would not recommend it to others,

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2012

    very long/enormously long/mind-numbingly long book

    JUST TO ASSURE THE READER: YOUR EXPERIENCE OF THE BOOK WILL BE DIFFERENT TO MINE (1). Never will you know how many “anonymous reader-reviewers” (including your cybercesspoolspace so-called friends) will press the “NO-this-is-not-helpful” button on your review and if asked why, why say NO, why hurt another person, the answer is Because you and I are both anonymous to each other, that’s why.

    (1)And, in case you’re wondering at the postmodernist/strange/odd shape this review will take, the canny reader (of which, yes, there are some) will know why. The rest of you, like poor befuddled me: read on! All will be revealed.

    This long (very long/enormously long/mind-numbingly long)(2)book of nearly 600 pages is, despite the very prominent legal disclaimer that says “it is a work of the imagination solely” (2a) Oates’ re-invention of the well-publicised Colorado murder of child model JonBenét Ramsey.

    (2) Perhaps I’m being too harsh here. What do you think, reader? Has five long days reading this book soured my perception? I did, after all, find the first 200 pages a fascinating work of genius. Perhaps I suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or I Like My Books Shorter Disorder (ILMBSD) or even (horrible thought) Can’t Concentrate For Too Long Disorder (CFFTLD) which negatively impacted my enjoyment?

    (2a) Hard to believe that the real “infamous” All-American family on which this rambling/frenetic/dare-I-say-it boring novel is based didn’t sue the author. The parallels between the JonBenét Ramsey case and Skyler Rampike’s narrative of the murder of his 6 year-old ice skating champion Bliss (previously known as Edna Louise) are remarkably similar (Remember this character, readers, she is important).

    Told “mainly” or “mostly” from the viewpoint of almost 20-year-old dropout/nutty/creepy Skyler Rampike looking back on his childhood leading up the life–defining moment when his young celebrity sister (Do you remember her?) is murdered. Leaping back and forth between his present and past (before-murder past and after-murder past), it’s difficult to find a single appealing character.

    ...(see full review on Goodreads)

    ¿ Now it is time, dear loyal reader, to reveal why I have written my review in this weird/strange/odd way. I have imitated/copied/satirised the style that MY SISTER, MY LOVE is written in. If you LOVED this review, you will (I promise) thoroughly enjoy MY SISTER, MY LOVE (and will probably give it 5 stars.) If you AB-so-LUTELY hated the way I ‘ve written this review: run! Run away from this book! It may be the death of you. It was almost the death of me but I’m a tough (and simple) boere meisie from South Africa and I survived to write this review. I hope it helps you make your decision whether to buy this book or not!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 31, 2012

    LOVED IT

    Joyce Carol Oates never fails to tell a wonderful story. I have never been disappointed in any of her books. She is a national treasure.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 9, 2009

    Completely Absorbing

    I am a huge fan of Joyce Carol Oates ever since her book THEM many years ago. I have read most of her books. This book is one of her best. It is such a heartbreaking story of children who are born to completely narcissistic parents who use their children for their own selfish purposes. There is humor here which relieves the tension somewhat or it would be a depressing book to read. The footnotes and somewhat disjointed style of prose would be annoying in a less talented author's hands, but Oates is a master at setting a mood with her masterful choice of words and unusual style. The story is obviously modeled on the Jon Benet Ramsey case and Oates does not apologize or try to obscure the fact even naming the family Rampike. Also, there is a allusion to the O. J. Simpson case in Skyler's girlfriend's situation. Obviously, Oates is making a statement about the special treatment celebrity crime receives. I was fascinated, as always, by the craftmanship of Oates storytelling which makes it such a delight to read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2014

    Tony

    Walks in

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2013

    Katniss

    Waits on the bed naked

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2013

    &moon

    &moon

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  • Posted January 11, 2010

    Once again Ms. Oates has written a book you can't put down. I am a big fan of her books.

    I enjoyed the book, it was a little hard to get into but then the story began to unfold in earnest and I enjoyed it very much, though it was sad to see Skyler & "Bliss" go through their ordeals.

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  • Posted August 15, 2009

    My Sister, My Love

    Great read, Ms. Oates does it again. Even better than BLONDE.
    Keeps you page-turning long after the lights should be out.
    If you like this one, must read Black Water. Excellent.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A reviewer

    In New Jersey, Rampike family patriarch Bix is a woman chasing abusive intimidating father his compliant wife Betsey focuses on one thing pushing their daughter Bliss, into becoming an internationally famous winning figure skater. Their other child nine years old son Skyler is irrelevant to either parent except if they need someone to bully. The Rampike family lifestyle abruptly dies when the star Bliss is murdered violently in the furnace room by someone who stabbed her multiple times.----------- A decade later the late Bliss¿ brother remains filled with guilt over her unsolved death while also shouldering the belief of almost everyone familiar with the case that he out of a jealous rage caused by her getting all the attention killed his sibling. Sky has no one as neither parent offers him comfort until now nineteen and having been haunted alone for ten years he receives the letter from his dying mother that tells him what happened on that fatal day when the façade of what he thought was the perfect family collapsed under the weight of the homicide.----------- An obvious tie to the Jon Benet tragedy, this is a deep satire that bludgeons the American dream in which appearances with no substance counts above all else image is everything hiding dysfunctional relationships. The story line is clever especially with ¿footnotes¿ to add to the feel that Sky is ¿reading¿ the true family biography written by his mommy. The story line is padded somewhat by a novella ¿First Love, Farewell¿ written by Skylar that enables the audience to better understand how as a teen he views relationships, but also distracts from the prime theme of what happened on that day. Still fans will appreciate Joyce Carol Oates keen look at the real American dream of obsession, excessiveness, and materialism.------------ Harriet Klausner

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted February 2, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2009

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    Posted October 14, 2008

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    Posted December 7, 2009

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