The Sisters of the Winter Wood

464p. Orbit/Redhook. Sept. 2018. Tr $27. ISBN 9780316483254.
This lyrical fairy tale of two sisters in a small village in Ukraine is a book to be savored rather than devoured. Liba and Laya have known only life in their small village, but when men summon their father back to his homeland, before leaving, their mother knows it's time to tell them the truth: their father can change into a bear and their mother into a swan, and each of the daughters will soon be able to transform as well. With their mother's warning to look out for each other ringing in their ears, the sisters bid their parents farewell and attempt to get by in their absence. But trouble is brewing in the village. Girls are disappearing, and people are blaming the Jews. Soon Liba and Laya are fearing for their lives and trying to decide how long they can keep their transformations secret. Alternating between Liba's and Laya's perspectives, this compelling debut novel is filled with Yiddish and Ukrainian words. The slow pace, rich character development, and descriptions of village life and the surrounding forest bring the fantasy atmosphere to life. This narrative makes its gradual, stately march towards the climax, with occasional action scenes sprinkled along the way.
VERDICT A first purchase where Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone and Gregory Maguire's Egg and Spoon are popular.

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