My Sister, My Love

My Sister, My Love

by Joyce Carol Oates


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New York Times bestselling author of The Falls, Blonde, and We Were the Mulvaneys, Joyce Carol Oates returns with a dark, wry, satirical tale—inspired by an unsolved American true-crime mystery.

"Dysfunctional families are all alike. Ditto 'survivors.'"

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 exposé 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.

Likely to be Joyce Carol Oates's most controversial novel to date, as well as her most boldly satirical, this unconventional work of fiction is sure to be recognized as a classic exploration of the tragic interface between private life and the perilous life of "celebrity." In My Sister, My Love: The Intimate Story of Skyler Rampike, the incomparable Oates once again mines the depths of the sinister yet comic malaise at the heart of our contemporary culture.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780594888529
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/09/2009
Series: P.S. Series
Pages: 592
Sales rank: 124,090
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Medal of Humanities, the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Book Award, and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, and has been several times nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys, Blonde, which was nominated for the National Book Award, and the New York Times bestseller The Falls, which won the 2005 Prix Femina. Her most recent novel is A Book of American Martyrs. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978.


Princeton, New Jersey

Date of Birth:

June 16, 1938

Place of Birth:

Lockport, New York


B.A., Syracuse University, 1960; M.A., University of Wisconsin, 1961

What People are Saying About This

Scott Turow

“The Gravedigger’s Daughter is Joyce Carol Oates at her very best: mesmerizing, intense and unique in her vision and power.”

John Gardner

“Joyce Carol Oates is one of the great writers of our time.”

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My Sister, My Love 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As an avid reader and a huge Joyce Carol Oates fan, I was really looking forward to this book. It had an interesting premise--although disturbing because this is one more thing the real life Skylar-Burke Ramsey has to live with. The book ws choppy, although I imagine it was meant to be. It was very strangely satirical and at some points I almost put it down, something I never do. I'm glad I read it, but I am very relieved that I am finished and would not recommend it to others,
Judy_Croome More than 1 year ago
JUST TO ASSURE THE READER: YOUR EXPERIENCE OF THE BOOK WILL BE DIFFERENT TO MINE (1). Never will you know how many “anonymous reader-reviewers” (including your cybercesspoolspace so-called friends) will press the “NO-this-is-not-helpful” button on your review and if asked why, why say NO, why hurt another person, the answer is Because you and I are both anonymous to each other, that’s why. (1)And, in case you’re wondering at the postmodernist/strange/odd shape this review will take, the canny reader (of which, yes, there are some) will know why. The rest of you, like poor befuddled me: read on! All will be revealed. This long (very long/enormously long/mind-numbingly long)(2)book of nearly 600 pages is, despite the very prominent legal disclaimer that says “it is a work of the imagination solely” (2a) Oates’ re-invention of the well-publicised Colorado murder of child model JonBenét Ramsey. (2) Perhaps I’m being too harsh here. What do you think, reader? Has five long days reading this book soured my perception? I did, after all, find the first 200 pages a fascinating work of genius. Perhaps I suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or I Like My Books Shorter Disorder (ILMBSD) or even (horrible thought) Can’t Concentrate For Too Long Disorder (CFFTLD) which negatively impacted my enjoyment? (2a) Hard to believe that the real “infamous” All-American family on which this rambling/frenetic/dare-I-say-it boring novel is based didn’t sue the author. The parallels between the JonBenét Ramsey case and Skyler Rampike’s narrative of the murder of his 6 year-old ice skating champion Bliss (previously known as Edna Louise) are remarkably similar (Remember this character, readers, she is important). Told “mainly” or “mostly” from the viewpoint of almost 20-year-old dropout/nutty/creepy Skyler Rampike looking back on his childhood leading up the life–defining moment when his young celebrity sister (Do you remember her?) is murdered. Leaping back and forth between his present and past (before-murder past and after-murder past), it’s difficult to find a single appealing character. ...(see full review on Goodreads) ¿ Now it is time, dear loyal reader, to reveal why I have written my review in this weird/strange/odd way. I have imitated/copied/satirised the style that MY SISTER, MY LOVE is written in. If you LOVED this review, you will (I promise) thoroughly enjoy MY SISTER, MY LOVE (and will probably give it 5 stars.) If you AB-so-LUTELY hated the way I ‘ve written this review: run! Run away from this book! It may be the death of you. It was almost the death of me but I’m a tough (and simple) boere meisie from South Africa and I survived to write this review. I hope it helps you make your decision whether to buy this book or not!
bookwormcf More than 1 year ago
Joyce Carol Oates never fails to tell a wonderful story. I have never been disappointed in any of her books. She is a national treasure.
bookaddictKG More than 1 year ago
I am a huge fan of Joyce Carol Oates ever since her book THEM many years ago. I have read most of her books. This book is one of her best. It is such a heartbreaking story of children who are born to completely narcissistic parents who use their children for their own selfish purposes. There is humor here which relieves the tension somewhat or it would be a depressing book to read. The footnotes and somewhat disjointed style of prose would be annoying in a less talented author's hands, but Oates is a master at setting a mood with her masterful choice of words and unusual style. The story is obviously modeled on the Jon Benet Ramsey case and Oates does not apologize or try to obscure the fact even naming the family Rampike. Also, there is a allusion to the O. J. Simpson case in Skyler's girlfriend's situation. Obviously, Oates is making a statement about the special treatment celebrity crime receives. I was fascinated, as always, by the craftmanship of Oates storytelling which makes it such a delight to read.
CatieN on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Skyler Rampike is the narrator of this somewhat bizarre book. It is a take-off on the JonBenet story with the murdered 6-year-old being Skyler's little sister Bliss who was a budding competitive ice-skater. The book is part murder mystery and part humorous take-off on life in the upper-middle-class suburbs and stage moms. Oates is one of my favorite authors, but with the exaggerated characters and bizarre storyline, this is not one of my favorite books that she has written.
LynnB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a powerful book. It is based on the real-life murder of child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey, with a satirical look at the desire for fame, life in the suburbs, fanatical Christians and living in "Tabloid Hell".In this novel, six year old Bliss Rampike is found murdered in her home. The story is narrated by her older brother, Skyler, who is writing a decade after the murder. Skyler has been heavily medicated and institutionalized ever since his sister's death and is struggling to survive the hell his life has become.Through is voice, we learn the story of the Rampike family. The success-driven parents, Betsey and Bix, who demand perfection from their children and are never satisified by what they have -- not their jobs, their home, friendships, each other, or tragically, their children.Skyler was "Mummy's little man" and came first in her heart until his younger sister, Edna Louise (later renamed Bliss) proved to be a champion figure skater. Skyler's narrative tells of his mother's drive to exploit Bliss's talent, and her attempts to use Skyler to make friends with prominent families in the neighbourhood. Joyce Carol Oates has created characters that are satirical, but the narrator (Skyler) is not stereotypical or two-dimensional. I really wanted to know how his life turned out. This book was disturbing, sometimes funny, sometimes shocking and I recommend it.
TheAmpersand on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"My Sister, My Love" is compulsively readable, but I'm sad to say that I don't think it's one of Oates's better efforts. It's book's subject, which is to say, JonBenet Ramsay and the weird, strained upper-class world she came from, that holds the reader's attention. The book is narrated from the point of view of Skyler Rampike, our fictional JonBenet's teenage older brother, and he's a fairly unlikable narrator, given to a self-deprecating sarcasm that grows wearying over five hundred or so pages. Oates pulls out all the po-mo stops, having Skyler construct the narrative before our very eyes, but this painfully self-aware approach only makes his narrative presence more intrusive. Worse, Oates's look at the Ramsay/Rampike family doesn't much get beyond cartoonish caricature: Mom's a Stepford wife, Dad's an overbearing, all-American A-type, Bliss/JonBenet is forced to be a parody of little-girl femininity. This may be, of course, a commentary on the Ramsays themselves, who were, as far as most Americans are concerned, nothing more than a series of sensationalistic news reports and creepy images, but this one-dimensional approach isn't much fun to read and keeps Oates from delving into what really drives her characters. Oates remains a gifted graphomaniac of the first order, and the book isn't without its effective, and affecting, passages, most notably her description of Skyler's teenage romance and his ultimately successful attempts to overcome his past. I'd recommend that LibraryThingers read "You Must Remember This" instead.
bhowell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Joyce Carol Oates writes a riveting story of an American tragedy with brilliant psychological tension. I loved it. She is one of my favourite writers and she never disappoints.
Ellouise on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a strangely gripping book. At times, I was repelled by plot. The intensity lasted through the 562 pages. The story of Edna Louise, renamed Bliss who became a prodigy girl figure skater & was murdered at the age of 8. The brother, Skyler, believed that he was the murderer. Throughout the book's vivid discription of Skyler's mental illness & the disintegration of the family, the reader is horrified with the action of the parents. I'm not really sure who the murderer is. The ending made me think that we never know who we really are. We are all atoning for something. This story, I believe, was to mirror the JonBonnet case. Mass media is a character in this book.
dianemb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At first, I didn't think I was going to like this book and then I got drawn in to the point that I had a hard time putting it down. Loosely based on the story of Jon-Benet Ramsey and written from the point of view of the overlooked older brother, the author gives us an inside look at the family dynamics of a mother living her life through her daughter, while the family falls apart. The aftermath of the murder is also explored with some interesting twists. A tragic look at what celebrity can do to a family and perhaps an indictment of a certain aspect of contemporary culture.
mojomomma on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow! I loved this book. No one does dysfunctional families as well as Oates! The family dynamics reminded me a lot of her other books I have read (Gravedigger's Daughter, We Were the Mulvaneys). The story is told from Skyler's point of view as a 19-year-old recalling his childhood and the life and mysterious death of his little sister Bliss ten years before.
DelasColinasNegras on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Though it took some effort to keep picking the book up because of the cold, callous parents, eventually I cared enough about poor little Skyler that I could not put the book down until I found out if he would ever get his life back. I feel Oates did a brilliant job. It is the most uniquely written book I have ever read!
Cecilturtle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Inspired by the infamous Ramsey murder case, this book is a boy's tale to cope with his sister's murder. It is raw with emotion and passion, and it is therefore difficult to detect Oates's incisive look at voyeurism, children exploitation, medication abuse in the school system, religious frenzy and a slew of other problems. It is incredibly well-written and therefore not entirely believable that a teen would have that kind of mastery of the language (the occasional fumbles in language are too contrived). The characters are both detestable, pitiful and to a large extent stereotypical since they are meant as but puppets of real-life, but they remain human and believable. Oates has an uncanny way of reaching into the subconscious and expressing feelings with shadows. She succeeds marvelously well in this novel.
PeskyLibrary on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My Sister, My Love is Joyce Carol Oates¿ creepy yet poignant interpretation of the Jon Benet Ramsey murder, as told by an older brother. The book explores the murder, and personalities of those surrounding the murder, of a competitive ice princess in the same vein as Jodi Picault¿s 19 Minutes interpretively explored the Columbine High School murders.The portraits Joyce Carol Oates paints of the mother and the father in this fictional ¿Rampike¿ family are sympathetic yet repulsive. Their characters are victims of our all-American drive for money and fame. Fame, indeed, is what they get but at what cost? In this tale they not only lose their daughter, Bliss, to the murderer ¿ I won¿t ruin the surprise ending(!)- but their moral compass which was beginning to go astray at the time of her death, ends up all over the page. The narrater, Bliss¿ brother, endures a living hell throughout the book until the final pages, but essentially his life was ruined by this sister from the get-go, primarily due to the mother¿s bone-crushing need to have Bliss succeed on the ice. In this story the little girl is an ice skater as opposed to a beauty queen, and resides in New Jersey rather than Colorado. But Bliss is murdered at the age of seven, just like Jon Benet, and the mother tarted her up incessantly for the media, all the while proclaiming her modesty in front of the camera. Joyce Carol Oates explores the depravity brought upon our culture via the mass media. Nothing good can come of it.The text of the story is interspersed with ¿excerpts¿ from the narrator, Skyler¿s, story within a story, in typed copy as though just found on his desk. Along with this are ¿handwritten¿ letters from ¿Your loving mother ¿ Mummy¿, the bane of Skyler¿s existence, who is begging his forgiveness for the lack of love and begging for his involvement in her life again after the murder. These ¿authentic¿ inserts, along with Skyler¿s own ¿footnotes¿ add a liveliness to the text, which is somewhat looong at 562 pages, not that any of it wasn¿t riveting reading, but given the heavy tone of the novel it starts to get wearing just after midway through it. Not my favorite Joyce Carol Oates, and I am a fan, but that¿s probably due to the basic premise of the plot. MAT10_09
mamzel on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reading the reviews after I finished I discovered this was meant as a satire so I guess I took it way too seriously. In a way I am glad since the book is tragic from cover to cover and I felt like I took a beating reading it. This poor little girl and her brother pulled the short straw when it came to parents. They were totally self-centered and only interested in how they were perceived as parents that the only interest they took in their children was to transform them into window dressing. Even the names of all of the neighbors were brutal and violent. Masterfully written but I have to choose something more cheerful to read next like I need a warm scented bath after shoveling gravel.
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rosesCL More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the book, it was a little hard to get into but then the story began to unfold in earnest and I enjoyed it very much, though it was sad to see Skyler & "Bliss" go through their ordeals.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Whittman More than 1 year ago
The announcer at an ice skating competition for little girls in this book is describing the dress? Though the commentary at the Olympics may sometimes mention the dress it is NEVER mentioned at a regular competition. Unlike toddler and child beauty pageants skaters train year round in a SPORT. You don't see Oates going after pee wee baseball . . . and why not? The book is awful and clearly shows that she judged a sport AND wrote it in as a plot without doing ANY research. I think that Betsey and Oates have more in common than figure skating and pageants do. Its the fictional ramblings of a grasping and opportunistic author. Don't bother wasting your time or your money on this one. She could have at least tried to be a writer but she embraced being a hack 100% No research, no originality, and she is again 100% off the mark. What's really sad is this trash only got published because she's made a name for herself. Yet another way to drag that poor Ramsey girl's name and memory through the mud. I hope she's pleased with herself capitalizing off the murder of a five year old along with the rest of the vultures.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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harstan More than 1 year ago
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Walks in
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Waits on the bed naked