Robin Oliveira comes to the blog today with the second in her Mary Sutter series, a story that follows a female physician and her family in the aftermath of a great blizzard and flood in 1879 Albany, New York. Please read on for my review of
The story brings together 3 families, tied by blood and friendship and their long journey on the path to healing after the blizzard in April 1879, and the disappearance of two young sisters, Emma and Claire O’Donnell, ages 10 and 7. Mary Sutter-Stipps is a physician, having met her husband, an orthopedist, during the war. Her mother, and niece Elizabeth are in Paris, as Elizabeth is studying violin at the Conservatory there. Circumstances brought Mary and Bonnie O’Donnell together – the friendship has become a familial one, she delivered the girls Emma and Claire, and invested in Bonnie’s business. But that morning was different –if starting similarly. A light and unexpected snowfall turned brutal: whiteout conditions, people stranded at work and schools, and the expected deaths. While not being discovered amongst the dead, unlike their parents, Emma and Claire were still, missing.
“Emma, take good care of your sister.” And she had.
What follows is a tremendous journey of hopelessness and hope: the girls were held against their will, Emma never forgetting her desire to leave, taking on the abuse with little to no complaint – she feared Claire would be abused and hurt if she didn’t. When the snow melt started to threaten the city, the one holding and caring for the girls came back to secure them, Emma took a chance and the two ran off. Discovered by a policeman and returned to the Sutter-Stips home, the real story begins to take form as we understand the depth of Emma’s injuries, the measured attempts of Mary and the others to understand the events of their disappearance and capture, and most of all, to discover just who had taken and used them so poorly.
Oliveira takes multiple story threads: the refusal of Elizabeth on her return from Paris to play her violin again, the overbearing mill owner, the incompetent and corrupt police, the mill owner’s son with a newly minted law degree from Harvard and a desire to practice criminal defense, the unwillingness of Mary Sutter to leave prostitutes, without access to basic medical care, without treatment and the increasingly scatological news stories that pack innuendo and shocking allegations in single sentences. Above it all – there is both the concern for Emma and Claire and their recovery after being held for 6 weeks, and the upcoming spectre of a trial – one that will put the foreman of the lumberyard on trial for kidnapping and rape. Rape being a particularly difficult charge to prove at the best of times, but with Emma, at 10, being over the age of consent, makes the questions, the prosecution and defense approach and strategies particularly horrific. Throughout it all, Oliveira never loses the sense of the girls as people desperately in need of time to heal and recover their trust. From facing impossible odds, to taking responsibility for her sister’s welfare, to using her limited life-experience to explain what happened, Emma is as solid as a sandcastle at the beach: appearing solid yet crumbling with small shocks and starts. It is only time, patience and the quiet solidity of Mary and William that give her the ability to start to feel safe and secure.
“One day, I’m going to write a violin concerto and call it Number One Hundred Thirteen, and Elizabeth will play it” One hundred twelve days since they were taken, that day (113) marked the first day she wasn’t scared when she awoke.
Title: Winter Sisters
Author: Robin Oliveira
Series: Mary Sutter #2
Genre: Family Saga, Historical Fiction, Reconstruction Era, Setting: American
Published by: Viking
Published on: 27 February, 2018
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
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From the New York Times bestselling author of My Name Is Mary Sutter comes a rich and compelling historical novel about the disappearance of two young girls after a cataclysmic blizzard, and what happens when their fate is discovered
New York, 1879: After an epic snow storm ravages the city of Albany, Dr. Mary Sutter, a former Civil War surgeon, begins a search for two little girls, the daughters of close friends killed by the storm who have vanished without a trace.
Mary's mother and niece Elizabeth, who has been studying violin in Paris, return to Albany upon learning of the girls' disappearance--but Elizabeth has another reason for wanting to come home, one she is not willing to reveal. Despite resistance from the community, who believe the girls to be dead, the family persists in their efforts to find the two sisters. When what happened to them is revealed, the uproar that ensues tears apart families, reputations, and even the social fabric of the city, exposing dark secrets about some of the most powerful of its citizens, and putting fragile loves and lives at great risk.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: