Sister Carrie is a lovely book. It tells a rather profound story--placed specifically in its time, which was of course the 'Modern Day' for the time it was written. As a result a book that was once a critical document of patterns of behavior of some of the author's contemporaries has become, for better or worse, an important historical chronical of the dangers of selfishness and uninhibited personal ambition. Oh, the story is no longer anything unfamiliar, but the grounding and the character studies make this book very affecting and, true to the ideals of its unfortunate literary designation of 'Naturalism' (a meaningless term which limits instead of explains a readers' expectation, much in the way that science-fiction or horror classify something as not necessisarily what it in fact is), this is a very believable and realistic story.
The writing itself, as other readers and critics throughout the past one hundred years or so have repeated when attempting to find fault with Sister Carrie, isn't the most impressive thing about the book. However, in its defense, the cut and dry, occasionally pasted on moments of philosophical conversation and the rugged and perhaps at times inconsistant speech patterns of the various characters somehow, for me, created an even more believable picture, zoning in on those people who attempt to speak both above and beneath their social class and educational backgrounds for either personal gain or in a futile effort to 'fit in'.
A wonderful book, because of its flaws, in fact, that reads like a quick-paced and absorbing tale always on the verge of tragedy. That tension, that what-will-happen-next feeling pervades throughout the book and concludes by providing quite an impact indeed.