Sisterland, by Curtis Sisterland, tells the tales of twins who are seemingly opposites - Kate is a mainstream, organized and seemingly well-balanced mother of two young children, with an understanding and supportive husband. Vi is a bit of a drifter, she is messy, a little overweight and makes her living as a psychic. Yup, you heard that right, a psychic. As it turns out, both Kate and Vi have "the sight" - they have been able to sense the future and hidden things since they were children. It is this special power that has caused problems in Kate's life yet given Vi her identity. The girls grew up the only children of a St. Louis couple - their father many years older than their mother. When the girls are on the eve of adolescence their mother essentially takes to her bed and they are left to fend for themselves. Close as children, it is at this pre-teen age when their paths diverge. At that age when girls start being mean to each other, the differences between Kate and Vi are magnified. Kate is slim and pretty enough to run with the popular girls. Vi is quirky, and refuses to adhere to pre-teen girl norms. At a sleep over at the most popular girl's house, Kate lets her inner seer come through, making a prediction that will cause her to be ostracized and pushed to the outside of the social center. Kate blames Violet for this, and deep rift is created between the sisters. They go to different colleges (it is in college where Kate changes her name from Daisy) and Kate chooses the most conventional path she can while Violet goes a little off the rails. The novel is observed from Kate's perspective, and her judgmental, harsh view of her sister makes her somewhat unlikable - she writes off her twin's lesbianism as a choice made because she is overweight. As a young mother Kate is high strung, nervous about disaster striking at any time. It is therefore particularly terrifying for Kate when Vi returns to town with a psychic prediction that a gigantic earthquake is going to hit St. Louis. It doesn't help that Kate's husband Jeremy is a geologist who thinks the prediction is laughable. Much of the novel centers around Kate's life as a young mother and her anxiety over her parenting, her weird sister, her elder father and her marriage. To be honest, it can be a bit of a drag but when she starts to let her pyschic abilities shine through, it brings her closer to her sister and it is then she is most likable. Towards the end of the book Kate makes a monstrous mistake that while in some ways predictable, is unexpected from her. This creates the real drama of the novel and it is at this point I became really interested in her. I still think the book would be better if Sittenfeld had chosen Violet to focus on. I can only give a lukewarm recommendation for this one and I look forward to Sittenfeld's next book, where she will hopefully be dazzling like her previous work.
Veggie LoMein, from seriouseats
There isn't a lot of interesting food in this book, but this veggie lo mein was consumed by Kate on the night she made that really big misstep. This recipe is super easy and full of crunchy vegetables. It is also low on the grease factor making it very different than what you would get from the usual takeout joint.
1 lb fresh lo mein noodles
1/4 cup vegetable, canola or peanut oil
4 cups shredded white cabbage (shortcut - bag of coleslaw mix...)
4 ounces shitake mushroom caps, sliced
4 ounces chinese chives or scallions cut into 2 inch pieces
1 tablespoon minced garlic
white pepper to taste
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (I substituted Sherry)
- Bring pot of water to boil, adding a few pinches of salt. Add the fresh noodles and cook one minute, stirring with tongs or chopsticks to keep noodles separated. Drain and toss with a a tablespoon of the oil and set aside.
- Heat one tablespoon of oil in a wok or large skillet until smoking hot.
- Add cabbage, toss until slightly charred, about two minutes. Remove the cabbage to a large bowl.
- Wipe out the wok, add 1 more tablespoon of oil and heat again until smoking, add the mushroom caps and cook until lightly browned, about 3 - 4 minutes.
- Add the chives or scallions to the mushrooms and cook for 1 minute, stirring Remove the mushrooms and chives to the same bowl as the cabbage.
- Wipe out the wok, add 1 tablespoon of oil and heat until smoking. Add noodles to wok and stir fry for 1 minute. Add the cabbage veggie mixture and stir to combine.
- Add the garlic and cook for about 30 second until the garlic is fragrant.
- Add sesame oil, soy sauce and wine and stir until the noodles are coated.
- Serve immediately.