'Do-Over, one of the stories in this dazzling first collection by Curtis Sittenfeld,is shortlisted for the 2018 Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award.
In ‘The World Has Many Butterflies’, a married woman flirts with a man she meets at parties by playing You think it, I’ll say it, putting into words the bitchy things she guesses he's thinking about their fellow guests. But she is in for a shock when, in time, she finds out what was really in his mind. ‘The Nominee’ sees Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail, confessing her surprising true feelings about a woman journalist she has sparred with over the years. In ‘Gender Studies’, a visiting academic sleeps with her taxi driver, for what turns out to be all the wrong reasons.
The theme that unites these stories is how even the cleverest people tend to misread others, and how much we all deceive ourselves. Sharp and tender, funny and wise, they show Sittenfeld’s knack for creating real, believable characters that spring off the page, while also skewering contemporary mores with brilliant dry wit.
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.
Hannah is a confused fourteen-year-old. In the magazines she reads, celebrities plan elaborate weddings; in Hannah's own life, her parents' marriage is crumbling.
Over the next decade and a half, love throws her some complicated questions. At what point can you no longer blame your adult failures on your messed up childhood? Is settling for someone who's not your soulmate an act of maturity or an admission of defeat? And if you move to another state for a guy who might not love you back, are you being plucky - or just pathetic?
A stunning novel in the great tradition of American coming-of-age novels from Catcher in the Rye to The Secret History.
Lee Fiora is a shy fourteen-year-old when she leaves small-town Indiana for a scholarship at Ault, an exclusive boarding school in Massachusetts. Her head is filled with images from the school brochure of handsome boys in sweaters leaning against old brick buildings, girls running with lacrosse sticks across pristine athletics fields, everyone singing hymns in chapel. But as she soon learns, Ault is a minefield of unstated rules and incomprehensible social rituals, and Lee must work hard to find - and maintain - her place in the pecking order.
In the year 2000, in the closest election in American history, Alice Blackwell's husband becomes president of the United States. Their time in the White House proves to be heady, tumultuous, and controversial.
But it is Alice's own story - that of a kind, bookish, only child born in the 1940s Midwest who comes to inhabit a life of dizzying wealth and power - that is itself remarkable. Alice candidly describes her small-town upbringing, and the tragedy that shaped her identity; she recalls her early adulthood as a librarian, and her surprising courtship with the man who swept her off her feet; she tells of the crisis that almost ended their marriage; and she confides the privileges and difficulties of being first lady, a role that is uniquely cloistered and public, secretive and exposed.
In Alice Blackwell, Curtis Sittenfeld has created her most dynamic and complex heroine yet. American Wife is not a novel about politics. It is a gorgeously written novel that weaves race, class, fate and wealth into a brilliant tapestry. It is a novel in which the unexpected becomes inevitable, and the pleasures and pain of intimacy and love are laid bare.
Curtis Sittenfeld is the author of the word-of-mouth bestseller American Wife, which was longlisted for the Orange Prize, as was her first novel, Prep, a New York Times bestseller. Sisterland, her fourth novel, was a Richard & Judy Book Club pick, and her most recent Sunday Times bestseller was Eligible, a contemporary retelling of Pride & Prejudice. Her books are translated into 25 languages. She is married, with two young children, and lives in the American Mid-West. Visit her website, www.curtissittenfeld.com