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My Sister, My Love: The Intimate Story of Skyler Rampike Paperback – June 9, 2009

3.5 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Oates revisits in fantastic fashion the JonBenet Ramsay murder, replacing the famous family with the Rampikes—father Bix, a bully and compulsive philanderer; mother Betsey, obsessed with making her daughter, Bliss, into a prize-winning figure skater; and son Skyler, the narrator of this tale of ambition, greed and tragedy. Skyler's voice—leaden with grief and guilt—is sometimes that of the nine-year-old he was when his sister was killed, and sometimes the teen he is now, 10 years later, when a letter from his dying mother solves the mystery of Bliss's death. The emotionally wrecked Rampike children are collateral damage in a vicious marital battle; Sky is shunted aside, while Bliss is ruthlessly manipulated. Stylistic tricks (direct-address footnotes chief among them) lighten Oates's razor-sharp satire of a privileged enclave where social-climbing neighbors dwell in gargantuan houses; as Oates's readers will expect, the novel is long, propelled at breakneck speed and apt to indulge in verbal excess (as in the 55-page novella within the novel). Oates's psychological acuity, however, ranks this novel as one of the best from a dark observer of our lives and times. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—Oates examines a family made famous first by the success, and then by the murder of their six-year-old ice-skating star, Bliss Rampike. Through 19-year-old Skyler, readers are introduced to the family. They know that his younger sister has been killed. But by whom, and why? The author holds back nothing in this portrait of a family gone horribly wrong: two egotistical, noncommunicative adults raising their firstborn, who cannot live up to their expectations or their own dreams, and their daughter, who tries. Readers see not only the relentless striving of the mother for fame and fortune, but also the manipulation of her son. Skyler tells of his memories (he was nine when his sister died) and of the present with appropriately excruciating detail—the overwhelming intrusion of the outside world, the public damning of his family, and the repercussions he suffers. The first-person narrative requires close attention to the web of lies and intrigue that the author spins. The use of footnotes by Skyler may confuse some teens, but the insights contained in them are invaluable. This is not a quick read, but rather a painful scrutiny of society and the things people often value. Give this book to advanced readers who will want to solve the mystery, and who want to study the dynamics of a dysfunctional family and/or of a society driven mad by media coverage. Intelligent and thought-provoking.—Janet Melikian, Central High School East, Fresno, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (June 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061547492
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061547492
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #647,998 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Susan K. Schoonover VINE VOICE on July 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Very prolific author Joyce Carol Oates' latest lengthy novel MY SISTER, MY LOVE: THE INTIMATE STORY OF SKYLER RAMPIKE is quite obviously "inspired" by the still unsolved Ramsey murder case of over ten years ago. Names, locations, and a whole lot of facts have been changed to prevent lawsuits in this "re-imagining" but Oates still manages to put forth a pretty compelling tale of "what might have happened" in that infamous child murder. The story is told from the viewpoint of six year old ice skating princess and murder victim, Bliss Rampike's, brother Skyler. Nine years old at the time of the tragedy but writing his memoirs ten years later, he makes some sharp satiric observations about upper middle class suburban life in his rambling account. The Rampike parents "Bix" and "Betsy" come plausibly alive as shallow, upwardly mobile strivers both before and after the tragedy that changed their lives. The final quarter of the book includes a first person novella that describes Skyler's teenage years as a resident at a school for troubled rich kids (Skyler battles addictions among other problems) and his doomed romance with the daughter of a famous athlete who in a very familiar sounding manner was tried but not convicted of the murder of his ex-wife and her boyfriend. The book concludes with Skyler at age almost twenty visiting his mother for the last time, seeing his father for the first time in years and the revelation of what really happened to his sister. The style of the book is not for everyone as it is filled with footnotes, asides from both the narrator and author Oates and other devices Miss Oates often employs in her writing. The book is really quite a bit too long and could have benefited from an editor's pen but at this point in her career Joyce Carol apparently writes whatever she pleases.
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Format: Hardcover
Our book club's book for August was MY SISTER, MY LOVE by Joyce Carol Oates. Originally we had thought about reading some nonfiction for a change, but then someone suggested a "novelization" of a true story. We were thinking of IN COLD BLOOD by Truman Capote, but then someone suggested MY SISTER, MY LOVE which is a fictional account of the JonBenet Ramsey murder case. In light of the recent evidence that came to light, we thought this would make for good discussion. And it helped that we have read the Rosamond Smith books in the past, and liked them...so we chose this one! (P.S., For other book clubs, did you know you can often get a bulk discount from a bookstore if you ask for it? We got this hardcover book for not much more than a trade paperback would cost.)

This is mostly a first-person narrative from the perspective of Skyler Rampike, the older brother of the murdered child--who is here named "Bliss Rampike." The setting is New Jersey, not Colorado; and Bliss Rampike is a child skating prodigy rather than a child model. Many of the other details are similar to the Ramsey case, however: the upper-middle class setting in a world of expensive homes and SUV's, the infamous ransom note, and the media feeding frenzy that really never quite abated.

What is most strikingly different is the exploration of the life of the older brother, who was of course suggested as the murderer throughout the years of the Ramsey murder investigation. Here, Skyler is the original target of his parents' ambitions to live vicariously through their children.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Joyce Carol Oates has written fiction based on actual events before, BLACK WATER (1992) and BLONDE (2000). Now she has written a gargantuan novel (562 pages) that has its "genesis" in what she calls in her Author's Note/Disclaimer a "true crime mystery of the late twentieth century." Think the murder of Jonbenet Ramsey and tragic aftermath of events that followed. The family name here is Rampike; the parents are Betsey and Bix; the childen, Bliss, whose name was changed from Edna Louise, and Skyler. This rambling story unfolds through the eyes of Skyler, who is nine years old when his six-year-old sister, an ice skating prodigy, is killed in the upper-middle-class family's home in suburban New Jersey.

Ms. Oates' world view is nothing if not dark-- at least in her fiction I have read although I do not pretend to have read her 70 or so volumes. In MY SISTER, MY LOVE Ms. Oates satirizes a certain section of American society, the perennial social climber. Thr Ramikes must get into the most prestigious social club. Betsey arranges playdates for Skyler with the children of the most important neighbors. Then there is Bix, the red-blooded former football star who has a cliche ("who's complaining?" "cut your losses!"never say never!" for every occasion. So what are they to do with a troubled son with a limp who always appears to smirk in the obligatory publicity photos of Mummy, Daddy and Bliss, the holder of the title of "Little Miss Jersey Ice Princess" among many others?

Ms. Oates skewers fundamentalist get-rich religion as well.
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