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Winter Sisters

By Robin Oliveira


Trade paperback

Feb 27, 2018


409 pages

Set in 1879 in Albany, New York

In Robin Oliveira’s “Winter Sisters,” it’s February 1879, and Albany, New York experiences a blizzard that changes the lives of its residents forever. Among the unfortunate is David O’Donnell and his family. David and Bonnie died in the street after the blizzard that claimed the lives of many. The tragedy was followed by the disappearance of their two young daughters. The teacher left them to fend for themselves as the blizzard gained strength. No one came for Emma and Claire.

Immediately after learning of David and Bonnie’s deaths, their friend Mary Stripp, a well-known Civil War surgeon and her husband, William, will not accept that the girls are dead. Mary informs the police chief, a man she intuitively does not trust, about the girls being missing. He believes they’ve drowned in the river in their attempt to get home. He promises to search for them but informs Mary and her husband that he is overwhelmed by those still being recovered. Mary cannot accept this, knowing the danger that the longer they are out there lost, their chances of survival are reduced. She’s determined to locate the girls on her own, no matter what danger.

The mystery of their disappearance leads them down disturbing paths of child prostitution and the rights of women forced, because of economic difficulties, into this line of work. It touches upon the legal age of consent being ten in New York State in 1879. When the ice of the river begins to break apart and flood the city, the struggle to survive continues.

Winter Sisters strikes a hornet’s nest. It’s about one sister’s sacrifice to protect the other. It’s about how some people feel they can do what they want and get away with it. It’s about determination and heartbreak. About being strong and then shutting down to protect your own heart and mind. There’s so much more this book touches upon that makes you believe that somethings never change, but you have to believe that darkness does not win in the end. Equality of women in the medical field is the second conflict the author deals with, but the girls tragic experience overpowers it. You will be surprised who rights the wrong.

This book deserves five stars.

Denise Fleischer


June 15, 2019