The Sisters of the Winter Wood

This one made me tear up. Imagine the poetic dreaminess of Laini Taylor set within a mashup of Russian and Ukrainian folklore (particularly swan and bear tales) upon a framework of a true-history tragic pogrom of a small Eastern European village’s Jews. Sprinkled over with a liberal addition of Hebrew, Yiddish, and Ukrainian.

That would be Rossner’s Sisters of the Winter Wood.

Laya and Liba are Jewish sisters living on the outskirts of a small goy/Jew village. Their mother is a convert– and so has always been gossipped about and never accepted. But one day a band of roving fruit sellers comes to town just as their father is called away to the village of his birth by a dying Rebbe.

These events will conspire to force Laya and Liba to confront both their magical heritage and their Jewish ones. It will teach them about the nature of love– how loving sometimes means setting those you love free of your expectations.

The coolest thing about this book is the lovely way the book switches between Laya and Liba. Liba has narrative first person POV. She is passionate and practical. Laya is dreamy and poetic– and this is reflected in the author’s choice to present her POV as a poetry prose. I thought I would get tired of it or be annoyed, but Laya’s narrative just flows right over you in a wash of emotion and yearning.

There are some repetitive parts in this book: particularly Liba and her romantic foil arguing about why she’s doing inexplicable things and seemingly taking her sister into danger, but those minor annoyances were always washed away by the beating heart of love and pride found within this narrative.

This is a gorgeous book.

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