My Sister, My Love

Joyce Carol Oates, Author
Joyce Carol Oates, Author . Ecco $25.95 (576p) ISBN 978-0-06-154748-5
Reviewed on: 04/07/2008
Release date: 07/01/2008

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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