For identical twins, Kate and Violet are about as unlike as two peas from the same pod can be. Except in one respect – they share a hidden gift. But after Kate inadvertently reveals their secret when they are thirteen years old, their lives are set on diverging paths.
Twenty years later Kate, a devoted wife and mother, has settled down in the suburbs to raise her two young children. Violet is single, and lives a much more flamboyant and eccentric existence. Then one day Violet ignites a media storm by predicting a major earthquake in the St Louis area where they live.
As the day Violet has announced for the earthquake draws nearer, Kate must attempt to reconcile her fraught relationship with her sister, and to face truths about herself she has long tried to deny.
Delicious insights into sisterhood and motherhood are peppered throughout Sittenfeld's novel about identical twins with ESP. The story, though, isn't as convincing as the twins, who are rendered so vividly that readers would be able to pick them out of a crowd. Kate, a stay-at-home mom in St. Louis, Mo., is embarrassed by her sister Violet, who ekes out a living as a psychic. After a minor earthquake in the area in September 2009, Violet's guiding spirit warns her that a major quake is imminent. When Kate has a premonition that it will occur on October 16, she allows Violet to share the date with the public if she doesn't reveal its source. Kate tells the story in chapters that alternate between timelines, one beginning with the September quake and one beginning when the twins are born. As a narrator, Kate is introspective and mostly honest, but the backstory is weighed down with unnecessary details and crucial questions remain unasked. As the clock ticks toward October 16, Violet attracts widespread media attention and Kate pleads with her husband not to leave her and their children at home to attend a conference in Colorado. Sittenfeld (American Wife) offers no fresh perspective on ESP or living with giftedness but delivers a rich and intimate tale of imperfect, well-meaning, ordinary people struggling to define themselves and protect the people they love.