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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 expose 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


10 thoughts on “My Sister, My Love

  1. Bess Bess says:

    6 24 Finished last night This has definitely moved into my 1 JCO book slot Blonde is really at the tippity top, but I don t really consider that a book so much as a fundamental component of life that everyone has to experience to become wholly human Somebody needs to dispatch a copy of this to Burke Ramsey, STAT, as it s the only thing that s happened publicly since the murder of his sister JonBenet a decade ago that legitimizes his existence as a standalone living, breathing entity wi 6 24 Finished last night This has definitely moved into my 1 JCO book slot Blonde is really at the tippity top, but I don t really consider that a book so much as a fundamental component of life that everyone has to experience to become wholly human Somebody needs to dispatch a copy of this to Burke Ramsey, STAT, as it s the only thing that s happened publicly since the murder of his sister JonBenet a decade ago that legitimizes his existence as a standalone living, breathing entity with its own purpose separate from the filthy lens of family drama the media makes us view him through while reminding us that 9 year old children are, guess what Usually just good ol 9 year old children.6 20 I m only about halfway through, but I just need to say quickly that I wish I d had Joyce Carol Oates sitting with me and my roommate in the corner at frat parties to make fun of everyone I think her input would have made it that muchrichly wittily amusing Her treatment of blueblooded jocks turned businessmen with nicknames like Spit and Fox has reduced me to fits of rather unladylike choke snort laughter on the subway all week


  2. Eddylee Eddylee says:

    awkward beginning but it gets great from page 32 on this is Joyce carol oates story inspired by the ramsey murder except told from the perspective of the older brother who is 22 now and a recovering drug addict and pretty crazy in a forlorn something happened to him that made his hair turn grey way that isn t used much any really enjoyable hard to put down i loved this book and i love joyce carol oates for continuing the gothic tradition there were even some pure horror moments for in awkward beginning but it gets great from page 32 on this is Joyce carol oates story inspired by the ramsey murder except told from the perspective of the older brother who is 22 now and a recovering drug addict and pretty crazy in a forlorn something happened to him that made his hair turn grey way that isn t used much any really enjoyable hard to put down i loved this book and i love joyce carol oates for continuing the gothic tradition there were even some pure horror moments for instance a character briefly but terrifyingly meets their doppleganger Aah there was even a short romance that i must admit i found to be boring but it was still dark and tortured and short one of the best parts were her precise descriptions of the insanity of childhood i do mean insanity in the schizophrenic way, too i still remember blurred hallucinations from my childhood and she did such a great job handling them that i identified most strongly with the character during his childhood and carried the bondthroughout the novel another awesome part was they way she handled suburban life i didn t grow up in the suburbs but i do have a job so i m familiar with the horrors of group psychology it was actually funny in a black way it worked so well that it extended to the horrors of tabloid hell this brings me to my conclusion.i think this is a great book vivisecting the american celebrity fetish, especially the dark side it reminds me a lot of Blonde actually, which i thought was great i found this book perfectly timed to be so near the elections, which i have never seen so celebrity focused though i don t remember many from the few of my lifetime keep your eyes peeled for scattered poetry and poingnat prose


  3. Randi Reisfeld Randi Reisfeld says:

    I m one of those people who hear the words Joyce Carol Oates and JonBenet Ramsey and feel like I ve hit the lottery Okay, I m one of the FEW people who feel that way And the book, in most ways, doesn t disappoint, tho I can t see how she got away with naming the main characters Rampike how close to Ramsey can you get and the mother, Betsey Patsy was taken The conceit of having the story told by the brother at age 19 he was 9 when it happened was a great idea BUT here come the buts.Th I m one of those people who hear the words Joyce Carol Oates and JonBenet Ramsey and feel like I ve hit the lottery Okay, I m one of the FEW people who feel that way And the book, in most ways, doesn t disappoint, tho I can t see how she got away with naming the main characters Rampike how close to Ramsey can you get and the mother, Betsey Patsy was taken The conceit of having the story told by the brother at age 19 he was 9 when it happened was a great idea BUT here come the buts.The style over substance thing conceit over content astericks over action let s put it this way I wouldn t recommend it if you re not a voyeuristic sensationalist Oates addict Like me


  4. ☕Laura ☕Laura says:

    In January of 1997, days before her 7th birthday, skating prodigy Bliss Rampike is found murdered in the basement of her home Ten years later, her brother Skyler, now 19, writes this account of his life as it relates to this horrific event, in an attempt to somehow make sense of it all The crime remains officially unsolved, but suspicions have been raised regarding a local sex offender, the parents and even Skyler himself Skyler, with a litany of psychiatric diagnoses and an extensive medicat In January of 1997, days before her 7th birthday, skating prodigy Bliss Rampike is found murdered in the basement of her home Ten years later, her brother Skyler, now 19, writes this account of his life as it relates to this horrific event, in an attempt to somehow make sense of it all The crime remains officially unsolved, but suspicions have been raised regarding a local sex offender, the parents and even Skyler himself Skyler, with a litany of psychiatric diagnoses and an extensive medication history, can t be sure that any of these suspicions are unfounded and is plagued with guilt that he did not protect his sister.I found myself immediately drawn into Skyler s narrative, which is written in a stream of consciousness style and is admittedly unreliable at times, as any adult s memory of childhood events must be I felt great sympathy for both Skyler and Bliss, innocent children saddled with dysfunctional parents, and I found myself anxious to learn what actually happened Clearly, this story is loosely based on the murder of Jon Benet Ramsey, to date unsolved, and I feared that this story might end with no real resolution, but thankfully we do ultimately learn the truth about what happened to Bliss I enjoyed the satirical aspects of this book, flouting the upper middle class suburban lifestyle and the proliferation of diagnostic acronyms, many of which I m fairly sure don t actually exist This added a bit of ironic levity to what was otherwise a pretty heavy read My only criticism of this book would be that I m not sure it needed to be quite as long as it was, as there was once section that dragged for me a bit, but overall I really enjoyed it


  5. Kim Kim says:

    2.5 stars I pretty much like all of her sad books however this one was a challenge Overall I liked it but it seemed like there was a lot of rambling on going on.


  6. Rebecca Rebecca says:

    I love Joyce Carol Oates Not all of her books are spot on for me, though I found The Tattooed Girl slow as hell, and Wonderland held my attention but I hated all of the characters which made reading it a strange experience That said, My Sister My Love was brilliant The main character Skyler was unexpectedly likable I could not put this book down It s at least 500 pages and I read it in 2 days In a nutshell, My Sister My Love is Oates at her best, darkest writer self A final dis I love Joyce Carol Oates Not all of her books are spot on for me, though I found The Tattooed Girl slow as hell, and Wonderland held my attention but I hated all of the characters which made reading it a strange experience That said, My Sister My Love was brilliant The main character Skyler was unexpectedly likable I could not put this book down It s at least 500 pages and I read it in 2 days In a nutshell, My Sister My Love is Oates at her best, darkest writer self A final disclaimer If you don t want to read about highly dysfunctional families, this book is not for you Or most Oates books, for that matter I watched Greenburg with my grandparents the other night and they were horrified by all the screwed up people, so I feel compelled to say something


  7. Sarah Sarah says:

    having just finished this book, i m a bit resentful it took me all 500 pages to decide i really don t like it oates narrator is a very troubled tragic to almost the point of comedy 19 yr old boy who continually stresses how he doesn t really know how to write his constant asides and self evalutaion get really annoying, besides from making the reader squint to read the small, self conscious italics who is joyce kidding she s writtenthan shakespeare, so the whole forgive my inexperi having just finished this book, i m a bit resentful it took me all 500 pages to decide i really don t like it oates narrator is a very troubled tragic to almost the point of comedy 19 yr old boy who continually stresses how he doesn t really know how to write his constant asides and self evalutaion get really annoying, besides from making the reader squint to read the small, self conscious italics who is joyce kidding she s writtenthan shakespeare, so the whole forgive my inexperience, dear reader gets old quick still, there must be something that kept me from putting it down maybe the hope that i would eventually warm to it didn t happen


  8. Margaret Margaret says:

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers To view it, click here In last week s offering from the relentlessly prolific Joyce Carol Oates, we find the High Priestess of America s Dark Side in what passes for a merry satiric mood, and as if that weren t a sufficiently unsettling spectacle, the subject of her sinister satire is the bizarre cult of celebrity that seems almost inevitably to spring up in this country around certain kinds of murder in this case the unsolved slaying, inspired by the JonBenet Ramsey case, of a six year old figure skating prodigy na In last week s offering from the relentlessly prolific Joyce Carol Oates, we find the High Priestess of America s Dark Side in what passes for a merry satiric mood, and as if that weren t a sufficiently unsettling spectacle, the subject of her sinister satire is the bizarre cult of celebrity that seems almost inevitably to spring up in this country around certain kinds of murder in this case the unsolved slaying, inspired by the JonBenet Ramsey case, of a six year old figure skating prodigy named Bliss Rampike Oates gift for character names is verging these days on the Dickensian The narrative voice belongs to Bliss s older brother Skyler, sidelined into virtual non entity during the days of his tiny sister s ascendancy and then cast into a wilderness of addiction, guilt, and acronymed diagnoses ADD, ASD, PDD, PMD, SSD, HSR in the aftermath of her murder Intelligent and sardonic, Skyler hopes ten years on that by revisiting and re examining the slow but spectacular implosion of his status obsessed family, he can exorcize his ghosts and the way that his sharp perception and dry wit flicker through the haze of antidepressants and neuroses suggests that one day he may just possibly succeed at least enough to move forward into his own life Oates saves her most blistering contempt for the manners, s and misplaced values of social climbing nouveau riche suburbia, and in particular for the Rampike parents, Bix and Betsy, the one a philandering success machine, the other a would be social butterfly from a working class background, frustrated of her own skating dreams, already losing the looks that won her charismatic husband, and increasingly desperate to find something that will give her stature with the wealthier, sleeker wives of Fair Hills, New Jersey Bliss s unexpected skating talents give Betsy that something, and from then on we watch her turn into a monster of manipulation and selfishness Bliss herself gradually ceases to exist as an individual, becoming merely a vessel for her mother s ambition and a sacrifice to her lust for attention and fame as Skyler will become the vessel for her frustration and loss , and Oates characterization of Betsy is ruthlessly observed, from her exploitation of Jesus as a justification for every questionable decision she makes to her blithe sexualization of her child to maximize her visual impact on the ice In a particularly creepy touch, which I actually didn t notice for a while, Oates elaborate descriptions of Bliss s costumes always end with the panties, flashing flirtatiously under the little skating skirts Bliss s increasingly frantic, child s signals for help and her mother s refusal to recognize them are incredibly distressing, and it s a disturbing achievement of the book that by the time the murder occurs, almost exactly halfway through, you feel that the truly terrible thing has already happened to Bliss Rampike, and that her death is, in its larger context, a twisted kind of blessing for her This I think is what s emerged as the perverse brilliance of Joyce Carol Oates her ability to chronicle what is weirdest and worst in the American psyche with a jeweler s precision, and at the same time to force us into feeling an ambiguity in our response to it, a reluctant understanding that amounts almost to a feeling of complicity with her sad, deformed characters and their actions Not a happy read, by any means, but a very interesting one


  9. Talia Carner Talia Carner says:

    How does a family turn dysfunctional In this wonderful novel, no doubt inspired by the JonBenet Ramsey case, Oates explores the intimate family dynamics that cause the tragic death of the family s star the six years old ice skating prodigy The same intensity that compels parents to push their children to the highest achievement is the same intensity that also becomes too heavy for the family s complex, yet fragile, fabric to bear Each parents view of own self, disappointment from what they How does a family turn dysfunctional In this wonderful novel, no doubt inspired by the JonBenet Ramsey case, Oates explores the intimate family dynamics that cause the tragic death of the family s star the six years old ice skating prodigy The same intensity that compels parents to push their children to the highest achievement is the same intensity that also becomes too heavy for the family s complex, yet fragile, fabric to bear Each parents view of own self, disappointment from what they could have been or would have liked to become, traps the children In this novel, the father s athletic prowess turn detrimental for the young boy, Skyler, who would be forever maimed But then, the little girl, Marie Louise renamed Bliss, begins to blossom as the athlete her brother could not become and the kind of star ice skater her mother had once wished to be The awkward nineteen year old Skyler is the narrator of the story, the formerly graceless and uncoordinated child who watched with envy as his mother bestowd all her attention on his younger sister, whom he had loved dearly and is still haunted by her life and death Skyler s voice is as strong as it is perceptive of the nuances that made up his parents dance of marriage Power struggle, intimacy, ambition, religiosity, self worth or lack of it, all come to play in this excellent story that examines the catastrophic results of the parents drive on their children and on their own lives Unlike some reviewers, I am not bothered by the inspiration for this novel being quite obviously the unsolved murder of the Ramsey case As an author, I see the curiousity in crawling inside the family home to undersand the dynamics that might possibly lead to such tragedy Joyce Carol Oates takes this story to an entire new place both geographically and artistically The characters are delineated and stand completely on their own, their dynamics uniquely the product of their respective histories and personalities The father s pompousness and the mother s gauche social ambitions concoct a poisonous cocktail that seeps into their children s veins My heart went to the six year old Bliss when she was at the height of her career Driven to long hours of practice, outwardly pampered yet manipulated, cut off from other children, dragged to those doctors and therapists the mother finds who conspire to ignore the child s injuries, frailty, learning disability, and painful isolation as she is home schooled This lonely child s only contact with normalcy is her brother Skyler, merely a few years older and ill prepared to take the emotional burden of his little sister s fears and needs I only found the ending to be dragging Skyler s life as a misfit teenager, while yet another exploration of the family s disastrous affect on the children, is less interesting Not so the mother s reinventing herself time and again, living off the legacy of her dead daughter, cashing on it yet again to make herself the star she had always wanted to become


  10. Caitlin Caitlin says:

    Of course this is what Joyce Carol Oates expected once again I would allow my prurient fascination with an American pop murder and an uncannily prolific favorite author to lead me all the way to the bookstore a Barnes and Noble no less on my bicycle in the rain to purchase a 30 hardcover edition of her brand new novel And I hate hardcovers What I was hoping for, I would assure Ms Oates, was not just another slick and sleazy rendition of the JonBenet Ramsey story one I surely could hav Of course this is what Joyce Carol Oates expected once again I would allow my prurient fascination with an American pop murder and an uncannily prolific favorite author to lead me all the way to the bookstore a Barnes and Noble no less on my bicycle in the rain to purchase a 30 hardcover edition of her brand new novel And I hate hardcovers What I was hoping for, I would assure Ms Oates, was not just another slick and sleazy rendition of the JonBenet Ramsey story one I surely could have purchased in perfectly good condition paperback in the true crime section of a used book store , but another shockingly weird real narration like the one she created in her novel Zombie the much shorter work based on Jeffrey Dahmer Unfortunately, I don t think Oates was as fascinated or disgusted with meek, scrunched embryonic Skyler Rampike the story s narrator based on her JonBenet s brother Burke Perhaps there is something just too unlikeable about JonBenet, her family, and the drawn out mystery itself to inspire good literature just yet After all, Oates wasn t the only author to be able to create some remarkable literature out of the sludgy Dahmer story Thom Gunn s book of poems Boss Cupid is downright beautiful, tender But for all its pages, and its extra inset novella, My Sister, My Love offers little in the way of literary innovation, character development, or really even sordid description It s true, I couldn t put the book down but that was really because of what I kept _hoping_ the book would become when, really, in the end, it was just a so so book That said, I d rather read a mediocre Joyce Carol Oates novel than almost any other book, any day But coincidentally or perhaps not at all , I only got a satisfying end to Oates s novel when, two days after I finished the book, I heard on CNN radio that the real life Ramseys Burke included have once and for all been officially exonerated from all suspicion in the murder of little JonBenet, after new technology revealed that DNA samples found on the body do not match Ramsey family genes As corporate big wig daddy Bix Rampike would say, genetic technology _is_ the path to the future at least to the Ramsey family s future after all