There’s nothing like a family-centric holiday like Thanksgiving to read a book about the most dysfunctional of all families. My Sister, My Love by Joyce Carol Oates is a novel about a fictional family in which the six-year-old figure skating prodigy daughter is found murdered in her own house. If it sounds familiar it’s because it’s the fictionalized tale of JonBenet Ramsay.
The story is told from the perspective of the Rampike’s son Skyler. He is nine years old when his sister Bliss is killed and, while never formerly accused, there are those who believe Skyler had something to do with the murder. The book is written in the voice of a teenager and so can take some getting used to sort of like when I read Room. However, where I eventually found the narration of Room to be endearing, I never quite got passed the rambling, at times incoherent, narration of My Sister, My Love. One difficulty, which is not at all Oates’ fault, is that the book is full of footnotes. This just doesn’t work in an e-book. The footnotes came at the end of each chapter at which point I no longer remembered what they referred to and it wasn’t really possible to flip back and forth. Alas, a shortcoming in the e-book world.
Moving on… Now I didn’t expect this to be an uplifting read. The subject matter pretty much precludes any idea of warm fuzzy feelings. And yet, it was a bit hard to read at times. Not so much because of the murder, because that doesn’t come until well into the book, but just because life has always seemed to be tricky for the Rampike children despite growing up in an affluent family. I give Oates’ a lot of credit for making it so heartbreaking without being cheaply sentimental. Even as I knew what the outcome would be, I hoped it would somehow turn out differently.
And while I did read all of My Sister, My Love on the trip to Florida, it was long. And it felt long. While the way the book is written gives a lot of insight into the mind of the narrator, Skyler, I think it could have been streamlined and still pack the same emotional punch. I wanted to know what would happen, but I wanted to know faster. I’m impatient.