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Curtis Sittenfeld: “It’s not my primary goal to make my characters likable”

The novelist Curtis Sittenfeld's career has felt so far like one departure after the next.

Her first novel, "Prep," broke out in a huge way upon its 2005 release, ending up on the New York Times' Ten Best Books of the Year list; the very next year, Sittenfeld moved from high school to adult life with "The Man of My Dreams," tracking a far more depressed protagonist's lifelong quest for love. And at the very end of the Bush presidency, Sittenfeld dropped "American Wife," a novel lightly fictionalizing the life of Laura Bush as dutiful spouse to a wayward but upwardly mobile scion. The only common threads these books share are a certain sensitivity to the way in which relationships -- with friends, relatives, lovers -- change over time, and well-drawn female protagonists who are unafraid to confess their less admirable actions and impulses.

Sittenfeld has done it again, marrying her sensibility to an entirely new subject matter in "Sisterland" (out now). The sisters of the title are the twins Violet and Kate -- née Daisy -- who are born with psychic abilities. As they grow older, Violet leans into her sixth sense, building a somewhat rudimentary career out of performing readings and séances. Daisy, on the other hand, changes her name and her life, becoming the attentive mother her family never had and finding a way to abandon her extrasensory abilities.

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