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Sister of Mine: A Novel Paperback – May 24, 2016
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About the Author
Sabra Waldfogel grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but has always been fascinated by the drama of slavery and freedom in the South, before and after the Civil War. She studied history at Harvard University and received her PhD in American history from the University of Minnesota. Since then, she has worked as a technical writer and has written about historic architecture for Old House Journal and Arts and Crafts Homes. Waldfogel’s short story “Yemaya” appeared in Sixfold’s Winter 2013 fiction issue. In her free time, she collects and sells antiques with her husband. Sister of Mine is her first novel.
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Top Customer Reviews
characters among the planter class, the slaves, and non slaveholding whites. In addition, to discover a book that
embeds the particular dilemma for Jewish slaveholders is a true find. In Sabra Waldfogel's novel, history does not trump the story line and the rhythm of the book. She is able to contextualize the story with a newspaper reference or a tidbit of gossip heard in town. If you are knowledgable about the Civil War battles, you'll be able to track the
course of the war through Henry's letters home to Rachel. The characters in the book are faced with the dilemmas of survival like every southern family during the Civil War but they also confront ethical dilemmas. We are privy to their deliberations and their thought process without any anachronistic rationales seeping into their 19th century minds.
Jew or Christian, black or white, northerner or southerner, male or female--any reader will close this book with not just more knowledge, but with greater understanding of the chaos and traumas engendered by slavery in the US.
The novel deals with the unrelenting brutality of slavery. There are certainly references to beatings, mutilations and rapes, but the focus here is on the ordinary lives of people – black and white – who lived through these times and were shaped by them. Families, children, lovers, soldiers, slaves and slave owners, merchants and poor farmers all play their roles here.
The fact that several of the main characters are German Jews who became slave owners adds a fascinating sub-text to the story.
At the end of this wonderful read, the thought comes: “Is this plausible? Would people living in such circumstances at that time, in rural Georgia, really act like this?” If those questions arise, it may be useful to remember that reality is not always determined by what is plausible.
The central characters are Adelaide and Rachel, half-sisters, the first a Jewish slave owner and the second her slave, and the men who come between them. Both women are compelling, but I was cheering for Rachel. My only real quibble is that I thought the Prologue should have been cut, or at least cut back.
Brava to Ms. Waldfogel for a fine novel and brava to Lake Union Publishing for picking it up.