The Sisters of the Winter Wood
By: Rena Rossner
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
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.
I got this book years ago but didn’t get around to it right away–I think because of the length? Anyway aside from its eye-popping cover art, the premise intrigued me, clearly melding many Eastern European fairy tales into the story. I finally got around to reading it earlier this year, which was great.
The fairy tale elemnts were interesting: of swans and bears, religion and the intertwine of the divides between peoples and groups during this time period (and especially in Eastern Europe; what a powder keg of situations there). I also thought the story itself was interesting, a coming of age story in tumultuous times where you struggle to form your own identity when you’re made up of different and opposing traditions. And it sucked how Liba and Laya were suddenly dropped with this massive revelation just as her parents are about to leave to visit a dying parent, leving the girls alone to fend for themselves; it was frustrating (actually a lot of the decisions made in this book was frustrating, but such is life).
I felt bad for Liba, the older sister, but I guess I can relate with her because I am an older sister myself and am always looking out for my younger brother. You have to be practical, you have to be on the look out. Having said that, Laya the younger sister drove me nuts. At first I thougth her chapters were presented in an interesting way, capturing her almost chaotic perspective and thoughts, but over time it just became frustrating, lost its charm on me as her willfullness became stubbornness and paving the way to a load of questionable and frustrating decisions.
Overall, The Sisters of the Winter Wood was a coming of age story, growing into who you are and expxeriencing love and betrayal for the first time.