Liba and Laya have spent their lives in a small Jewish village, tucked away in the woods. Their mother was a convert to the faith, and has not been readily welcomed into the village, despite that the girls’ father is well-loved. Yet their domestic complacency is interrupted when Liba’s father is told of his own father’s impending death. Her father and mother must leave for the arduous journey back to her father’s birthplace. However, before they depart, the girls’ mother informs the girls of their true history; of secrets that seem to unbelievable to be real, but which are sadly indisputable. Armed with the knowledge of what really flows in her veins, Liba is tasked with protecting Laya, yet it seems fate seeks to complicate this simple task.
When a group of fruit sellers arrive shortly after the girls are left to fend for themselves, Laya finds herself seeking freedom in passionate embraces and whispered confessions, while Liba desperately tries to do right by her parents and protect her sister, all the while trying not to give in to the emotions bubbling within her own heart. The sisters are left vulnerable to life, love and deceit, with nothing to guide them but secrets and myths.
Filled with magic and whimsy, The Sisters of the Winter Wood is a modern-day fairy tale, set in a decidedly adult and dangerous backdrop. Interspersed among the fairy tale buffet is poetry, history and wonder. The combination makes this book so thoroughly enjoyable that it leaves you wanting more after its conclusion. Rossner has created a vivid, beautiful and menacing world with a dream-like quality and sparkle.
While each of the two sister’s narratives is unique and otherworldly, much like the sisters themselves, Rossner harbours the power of prose to create and populate a world that is disappointingly just beyond the reach of the reader. The Sisters of the Winter Wood is shrouded in secrets, magic, and the impossible, making it an altogether unprecedented experience of love, loss, and understanding. This book is as beautiful as it is mesmerizing, and will guide you through the shadowed woods, to sunlit possibilities beyond your imagining.
The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner is published by Orbit, an imprint of Little, Brown Group, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.