Adventures in Reading


Fiction: My Sister, My Love by Joyce Carol Oates, 2008

“The death of a beautiful girl-child of no more than ten years of age is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world.” – E.A. Pym from “The Aesthetics of Composition,” 1846

Joyce Carol Oates’ most recent novel My Sister, My Love: The Intimate Story of Skyler Rampike is a foray into the world of childhood tabloid stardom. Unquestioningly based on the JonBenét Ramsey case of the ’90s, My Sister, My Love is told through the voice of Skyler Rampike – the brother of legendary child prodigy figure skater Bliss Rampike, who was murdered as a young girl. The novel is a memoir manuscript of sorts exploring Skyler’s perspective and experience, as well as the tabloid influence on his American life post-tragedy.

As my first novel by the prolific Oates, My Sister, My Love delivers everything it promises. Written from a medicated and spoiled/privileged viewpoint of an American, wealthy adolescent, the character Skyler is written in a jumpy or nervous style that switches between first and third person narrative as well as through the eyes of a younger boy and an adolescent. (If you’re not comfortable with alternative narratives, I’d suggest staying away from this one.) The narrative becomes more curious as throughout Skyler reflects on his own use of literary devices.

I didn’t love this book, though I did speed read through the first 3/4ths of the book. The gritty tabloid aspect of the book works brilliantly, as does Skyler’s childhood experiences with the Rampike family, and I found myself reading it like I scan the “trash mags” at the grocery store check out aisle; however, the latter portion of the book just isn’t as interesting. *Shrugs.* Regardless, this is what the book promised from the start and Oates does deliver it. Perhaps not her best book, but still one that I (mostly) enjoyed reading. In addition to the theme of media and particularly tabloids, Oates has a lot to say on this particular venue and type of America and the people that are produced from it.

One point of additional interest for myself was that when Skyler was a child during the ’90s so was I, and I felt like I had a more intimate look because of this (a.k.a. my mom totally dressed at times like the mother in the book!)

A Girl Walks Into A Bookstore… had an interesting post awhile back about the cover, and starting the book I initially concurred that the cover is just not appealing, but now that I’ve finished the book it is strangely appropriate (that and I have no other ideas to suggest that would be any more appealing!).

Conclusion: Returned to the library.