This book has been sitting on my bedside table since before it was released. Just letting you know how long I have been putting it off. I’ve been putting it on my TBRs every month ever since, but finally–finally–I was able to get to it and I only have one word to describe it.
The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner
Pub Date: Sept 25th, 2018
Price: $35.50 CAD
Raised in a small village surrounded by vast forests, Liba and Laya have lived a peaceful sheltered life – even if they’ve heard of troubling times for Jews elsewhere. When their parents travel to visit their dying grandfather, the sisters are left behind in their home in the woods.
But before they leave, Liba discovers the secret that their Tati can transform into a bear, and their Mami into a swan. Perhaps, Liba realizes, the old fairy tales are true. She must guard this secret carefully, even from her beloved sister.
Soon a troupe of mysterious men appear in town and Laya falls under their spell-despite their mother’s warning to be wary of strangers. And these are not the only dangers lurking in the woods…
The sisters will need each other if they are to become the women they need to be – and save their people from the dark forces that draw closer.
*Review copy provided by HBG Canada!*
These two amazingly complex sisters.
Liba and Laya are phenomenal characters. PHENOMENAL. Almost polar opposites but with so much heart. I have to say, I was so impressed by them.
Liba is the older sister and was the more protective, motherly type. She is stubborn though, she has so much heart, she is curious, timid, thoughtful and dedicated to her family and faith. I definitely saw myself in her a bit even though I am not the oldest child of my sisters hehehe. But I truly did love her.
Laya is definitely an interesting character too! She is definitely more spunky with her curiosity. I was yelling at her a lot throughout the whole book too, but I definitely understood where she was coming from. Her need for adventure and freedom is very understandable and I am truly impressed with her bravery.
They’re both definitely flawed, Liba is controlling and Laya is selfish, but they would literally go to the ends of the world for each other and that is what I loved reading about.
I loved the switching between prose and verse.
It fit this story perfectly. Liba’s POV is written in prose and the full sentence structure worked with her thirst for knowledge and her desire for a well-structured, safe life. In contrast, Laya is just as wild as the verse used to present her voice. It is free, blunt, cut off in different places. I loved it. It also made this read go by fasssttt. And let me tell you I flew through this book.
I loved the folklore.
I have not read Goblin Market by Christna Rossetti, but I definitely can see where it might have influenced this book. It had such a curious and odd magic. It was incredibly beautiful and yet totally haunting. Very haunting. It was seriously incredible, I had stars in my eyes the whole time I was reading.
It also held a hefty amount of Jewish folklore and mythology. I have pretty much no experience with this, so it was my first exposure to this kind of story telling and I can say that it was incredibly interesting. The people and the forest had such a magic to them…it was wonderful!
Plus I have a newfound appreciation for bears and swans.
I loved the drama and suspense.
I read this book in two nights. That’s how fast it goes because it is so engrossing. Every chapter amps up the stakes, the drama, the INTENSITY. The backstory of this novel had me y e l l i n g!!! I tried my best to pace myself to really soak it in but ahhh I couldn’t. I DEVOURED this book. Utterly and completely swallowed. AND YOU KNOW WHAT. I STILL SAVORED EVERY SINGLE CHAPTER.
I loved the family dynamics and community complexities.
As a Jewish family in a mixed community (some Jew, some not) we definitely got to see a lot of the complexities that come with a life in these groups. All come with their prejudices and it just goes to show that no community can ever truly be perfect no matter how much we try and its okay so long as we continue to recognize and strive to fix our wrongs. The novel takes place around the early 1900s and the author included actual anti-Semetic events that happened in history. But she also included some Jewish legends that I thought were really interesting, especially the dancing bear men! I think it enriched the historical aspects of this story and brought awareness to events probably none of us have heard of.
I loved the languages!
Three languages were used by the characters. Yiddish, Hebrew and some Ukranian. Now imagine me, not knowing any of these languages while reading this book. I had to flip to the glossary quite a few times, but thankfully it is beautifully organized and I had a wonderful time learning new words. I’m not sure this is a pro for many, but I am a language student so it’s a pro for me!
Overall, I am still shaken by this novel. As soon as I finished I wanted to read it again, so you know that is always a good sign. I feel like I want a sequel, but I know it doesn’t need it. It is a perfect whole and the wanting I have just goes to show how amazing this author and this book truly is.
Rating: 5 / 5 stars
Recommend?: YES. YES. YES.
Let me know what you think! Have you read this one? Are you looking forward to reading it? What cultural folklore would you love to see represented in books?