Tuesday, June 3, 2008

My Sister, My Love: The Intimate Story of Skyler Rampike

My Sister, My Love: The Intimate Story of Skyler Rampike
Joyce Carol Oates
Ecco, Jul 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 0061547484

In New Jersey, Rampike family patriarch Bix is a woman chasing abusive intimidating father; his compliant wife Betsey focuses on one thing pushing their daughter Bliss, into becoming an internationally famous winning figure skater. Their other child nine years old son Skyler is irrelevant to either parent except if they need someone to bully. The Rampike family lifestyle abruptly dies when the star Bliss is murdered violently in the furnace room by someone who stabbed her multiple times.

A decade later the late Bliss’ brother remains filled with guilt over her unsolved death while also shouldering the belief of almost everyone familiar with the case that he out of a jealous rage caused by her getting all the attention killed his sibling. Sky has no one as neither parent offers him comfort until now nineteen and having been haunted alone for ten years he receives the letter from his dying mother that tells him what happened on that fatal day when the façade of what he thought was the perfect family collapsed under the weight of the homicide.

An obvious tie to the Jon Benet tragedy, this is a deep satire that bludgeons the American dream in which appearances with no substance counts above all else; image is everything hiding dysfunctional relationships. The story line is clever especially with “footnotes” to add to the feel that Sky is “reading” the true family biography written by his mommy. The story line is padded somewhat by a novella “First Love, Farewell” written by Skylar that enables the audience to better understand how as a teen he views relationships, but also distracts from the prime theme of what happened on that day. Still fans will appreciate Joyce Carol Oates keen look at the real American dream of obsession, excessiveness, and materialism.

Harriet Klausner