The mystery surrounding Anna Grieve and her mentally fragile older sister, Esther, begins in Russia in the 1880s. The persecution of Jews has become so vicious that the girls' mother decides to send her children to Winnipeg with her wealthy employers. Her intention is to join them, but the sisters never see their parents again. Frightened and cut adrift, each girl reacts differently to her new family in North America. Esther's beauty and glamorous lifestyle hide the fact that she is losing herself to mental illness brought on by a trauma during her childhood in Russia. Anna does not understand the depth of her sister's torment, and spends her life torn between taking care of her and escaping her. As soon as she can, Anna leaves for New York and makes a new life as a women's rights activist with an illegal contraceptive business in Manhattan.
When Anna receives the unexpected news of Esther's apparent suicide on If Day in Winnipeg - the day a simulated Nazi attack took place to raise money for war bonds - she returns to the city to face the possibility that If Day and Esther's early trauma are inexorably linked to her death.
|Publisher:||Second Story Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
Heather Chisvin is the daughter of Russian immigrants who moved to Winnipeg to avoid the pogroms of the early 20th century. She is a journalist, a radio and television documentary producer, an advertising copywriter, and a teacher at the Ontario College of Art and Design. This is her first work of fiction. She lives in Port Hope, Ontario.
What People are Saying About This
An illuminating look at family ties and the reverberating effects of European violence against Jews before World War II.
A compelling and powerful tale permeated with a longing for what can never be. Chisvin's beautifully realized characters, the independent Anna and her fragile sister Esther, reflect not only the vulnerability of the human condition but also its tenacity.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Anna “Bencke” Grieve’s life changed after Tsar Alexander II’s assassination. In fear for their lives as Jews, her mother, a privileged servant, asked her employers Count and Countess Chernovski to take Bencke and her older sister Esther with them to Canada. The Chernovski’s later adopt them, believing their parents to be dead. Bencke does her best to care for Esther, who suffers episodes from traumatic memories that incapacitate her at times, as she herself tries to fit her eccentric personality into Countess Chernovski’s picture perfect household. Decades later, Anna receives a phone call from the Winnipeg police informing her that her sister has committed suicide by stepping in front of a train. She heads to Canada seeking the truth. The story alternates between this investigation and a backstory of a life fully lived, from Anna’s forced relocation to NYC, to circumstances causing her to be deported to Russia during WWI. In the investigation, Anna learns her sister’s secrets and must live with them now. Chisvin brings history to life in Anna’s story, as dear reader sees her torn from her family as a child after her country’s leader is killed and Jews are blamed, and as an activist for women’s rights alongside Margaret Sanger. She becomes a part of the melting pot that is NYC, falls into the fear of Americans who deport her in the war, and witnesses the disorder of Russia as essentially an outsider. Chisvin brings closure to Anna in her mixed emotions of finally being free of her sister as it breaks her heart. The last line of the book is brilliant in its imagery of this closure. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy of this beautiful story from the publisher through NetGalley.
Anna receives a call about her sister. She is dead! Run over by a train. Was she pushed? Was this suicide? Anna’s sister, Esther, is a damaged soul. Anna and Esther are given, by their mother, to a Count and Countess of Russia to be taken to safety at the beginning of the Russian revolution. Nothing is ever the same. Anna begins to rebel and Esther is prone to bouts of melancholy and mental detachments. This story is narrated by Anna. And I love her tenacity, her hard work and her politics. Anna is a smart, sell sufficient woman in a time period where women are supposed to be homemakers only. She also secretly provides birth control. Keep in mind, this is when it was illegal for women to have birth control. Did I mention Anna is a REBEL?!? Then there is Esther. Anna and Esther have a strange relationship. They are estranged through part of the story. But, the moment Esther needs her, Anna always comes through. There is a lot of history and mystery in this book. It does flip flop between Anna’s past and her present. This can get a little confusing in places. But, the story keeps you captivated. I received this novel from Netgalley for a honest review.
I never had a sister but I always wished I had one because I always thought I wouldn't have to look outside for a best friend and an ally if I had a sister. The story revolves around two sisters Anna and Esther who born in Russia but sent to live in Winnipeg with the Count and Countess. Esther is elder to Anna, beautiful but emotionally disturbed. Anna is the younger one, tall, but stronger with independent ideas. Esther has her episodes now and then and Anna is always there to support her. Anna is shocked by Esther's sudden death. The bond between the two sisters is incredibly written. This is not the kind of bond I assumed of with my imaginary sister, but its very different. They are two different people but the sisterhood always brings them together. They are always there for each other whenever there is a significant incident in their lives. Anna's rebellious nature attracted me. She does what she likes. Anna and Esther both had troubled childhood when they were taken away from their parents, but they both did their part to the less fortunate by volunteering at various causes. The Count and the Countess were of great influence. Many other supporting characters like Vera, the police inspector, Nathaniel, Oscar are well written. The books took me through the whole Great War period, the If Day and how Jews were affected during that time. I could say this is a historical book. I felt that the book ended too soon. I'm sure the author has her reasons. All in all, I enjoyed the book. I look forward to reading more books from Heather Chisvin.