My Sister, My Love

My Sister, My Love

4.0 15
by Joyce Carol Oates
     
 

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New York Times bestselling author of The Falls, Blonde, and We Were the Mulvaneys, Joyce Carol Oates returns with a dark, wry, satirical tale—inspired by an unsolved American true-crime mystery.

"Dysfunctional families are all alike. Ditto 'survivors.'"

So begins the unexpurgated

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Overview

New York Times bestselling author of The Falls, Blonde, and We Were the Mulvaneys, Joyce Carol Oates returns with a dark, wry, satirical tale—inspired by an unsolved American true-crime mystery.

"Dysfunctional families are all alike. Ditto 'survivors.'"

So begins the unexpurgated first-person narrative of nineteen-year-old Skyler Rampike, the only surviving child of an "infamous" American family. A decade ago the Rampikes were destroyed 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 Skyler's own lost childhood; and part corrosively funny exposé of the pretensions of upper-middle-class American suburbia, this captivating novel explores with unexpected sympathy and subtlety the intimate lives of those who dwell in Tabloid Hell.

Likely to be Joyce Carol Oates's most controversial novel to date, as well as her most boldly satirical, this unconventional work of fiction is sure to be recognized as a classic exploration of the tragic interface between private life and the perilous life of "celebrity." In My Sister, My Love: The Intimate Story of Skyler Rampike, the incomparable Oates once again mines the depths of the sinister yet comic malaise at the heart of our contemporary culture.

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Editorial Reviews

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)

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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.
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.”
John Gardner
“Joyce Carol Oates is one of the great writers of our time.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061806667
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/13/2009
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
592
Sales rank:
279,025
File size:
2 MB

What People are saying about this

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.”

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