Summary and book reviews of Winter Sisters by Robin Oliveira

Winter Sisters

by Robin Oliveira

Winter Sisters by Robin Oliveira X
Winter Sisters by Robin Oliveira
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  • Published:
    Feb 2018, 416 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Davida Chazan

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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

Winter Sisters is a propulsive new novel by the New York Times bestselling author of My Name Is Mary Sutter.

Chapter One

Two days before Emma and Claire O'Donnell disappeared, a light snow fell from the dawn sky above Albany, New York, almost as a warning mist. Later, people would recall that the flakes were mistakenly perceived as a lark, a last dusting in what had been an unusually cold winter. The year 1879 was already proving to be a surprising one: on March 3, the first woman lawyer had argued a case before the Supreme Court, and despite the wretched cold, there had been an abnormally scant snowfall. Just a foot since November, which had then melted away on three strangely warm days in early February, though the thick ice on the Hudson River had not yet broken.

Emma and Claire O'Donnell were ten and seven years old, respectively. In concession to the snow, they wore boots, but because the day was already warming they donned only a light coat over their spring dresses. Their parents were similarly attired: boots in lieu of lighter, leather shoes, a woolen coat for Bonnie, a thin cloth ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Oliveira's style of writing fits the era quite nicely, with a certain level of propriety that stops well short of being stodgy. Without being overly lyrical or poetic, she draws a picture of Albany with many well-placed hints and carefully drawn descriptions of various locations that complement the story and characters. Mind you, some of the characters here are far from respectable, and the voices that Oliveira gives them reflect their social status perfectly. In fact, there was one character that I particularly fell in love with, despite the cliché of her being a "whore with a heart of gold." If Oliveira is thinking of writing a third book in this series, I would respectfully suggest that her next major protagonist be this character!   (Reviewed by Davida Chazan).

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Media Reviews

Library Journal

Oliveira blends mystery, historical detail, and courtroom drama in a compelling story that will please most historical fiction fans, especially those who enjoyed the previous novel.

Booklist

Some aspects of the mystery seem rather obvious, but the courtroom scenes are dramatically unpredictable. The individual stories build to create a multifaceted and affecting portrait of courage.

Publishers Weekly

Oliveira’s beautiful, expertly researched novel showcases the lives of women overcoming societal constraints and living fearlessly.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Oliveira crafts a complex, multifaceted historical novel that is both a captivating story and a commentary on the laws that have, for far too long, oppressed and endangered women... Entertaining at times, deeply political at others; a perfect example of a historical novel that also illuminates present-day issues.

Author Blurb Lauren Belfer, New York Times bestselling author of City of Light, A Fierce Radiance, and And After the Fire
Robin Oliveira has a remarkable gift for bringing the past to life. In Winter Sisters, she matches a bold, vivid story with a rare sensitivity to the natural world in all its serene beauty and deadly force. This is a compelling novel that will keep you up all night.

Author Blurb Kimberly McCreight, New York Times bestselling author of Reconstructing Amelia and Where They Found Her
Equal parts exquisitely detailed historical drama and riveting literary thriller, Winter Sisters deftly explores the brutal costs of child exploitation, while elegantly demonstrating the healing power of true compassion and profound sisterly devotion.

Author Blurb Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling author of Serena
After two young sisters vanish in a snowstorm, the whys and hows of their disappearance quickly become a compelling and increasingly complex mystery. Robin Oliveira renders nineteenth-century Albany, New York, with exactitude and vividness, but her novel's ultimate concerns are timeless - suffering and healing, the loyalty to family versus loyalty to justice.

Author Blurb Melanie Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue
Raw beauty and devastation, both; this is true of the forces of nature and the foibles of men that propel the plot of Winter Sisters toward its stunning climax.

Author Blurb Dawn Tripp, bestselling author of Georgia
Suspenseful and beautifully written, shot through with wisdom and grace, this is a book you will stay up late for - a book you will read and love and share.

Author Blurb Nancy Horan, New York Times bestselling author of Loving Frank and Under the Wide and Starry Sky
A haunting tale of terror and enduring love, Winter Sisters is tense and vivid. It kept me immersed to the last page.

Author Blurb Sena Jeter Naslund, bestselling author of Ahab's Wife, Four Spirits, and Abundance, A Novel of Marie Antoinette
Winter Sisters commands the reader's attention. Both a missing-person thriller and a courtroom drama that appeals powerfully to the heart, this novel shows a society on the brink of change at the end of the nineteenth century.

Author Blurb Thomas Christopher Greene, author of The Headmaster's Wife and If I Forget You
A true tour de force, Winter Sisters is the best period thriller I've read since The Alienist. Robin Oliveira is a novelist working at the height of her powers. Beautifully written, compelling, sensual and cinematic, I couldn't put it down.

Author Blurb Julie Barton, New York Times bestselling author of Dog Medicine
Winter Sisters is a brilliant literary triptych: part tender family saga, part feminist narrative, part wild mystery. Only the author who introduced us to the unforgettable and tenacious Mary Sutter could spin a tale so captivating and empowering, of winter devastation followed, we can only hope, by the renewing bloom of spring.

Reader Reviews

Michael Haughton

Winter Sisters
I think the writer started great with introducing the scene. Further explanations reveal the plot lining. but as I keep saying with the use of word to bring out phrases are some times used wrongly. this line was no different." In concession to ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Weathering Some of the Biggest Recorded Storms Ever

1888 BlizzardIn the afterword of Winter Sisters, Robin Oliveira notes that she based the blizzard in the novel on one of the real-life deadliest blizzards in North American history, which took place in 1888. According to the Life Science website, "More than 400 people in the Northeast died during the Great Blizzard, the worst death toll in United States history for a winter storm. On March 11 and March 12 in 1888, this devastating nor'easter dumped 40 to 50 inches (100 to 127 cm) of snow in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. Huge snowdrifts buried houses and trains, and 200 ships sank in waves whipped up by fierce winds."

However, while the location of that storm fit Oliveira's story, other aspects don't. That's when I ...

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