When two Union soldiers stumble onto a plantation in northern Georgia on a warm May day in 1864, the last thing they expect is to see the Union flag flying high—or to be greeted by a group of freed slaves and their Jewish mistress. Little do they know that this place has an unusual history.
Twelve years prior, Adelaide Mannheim—daughter of Mordecai, the only Jewish planter in the county—was given her own maid, a young slave named Rachel. The two became friends, and soon they discovered a secret: Mordecai was Rachel’s father, too.
As the country moved toward war, Adelaide and Rachel struggled to navigate their newfound sisterhood—from love and resentment to betrayal and, ultimately, forgiveness.
Now, facing these Union soldiers as General Sherman advances nearer, their bond is put to the ultimate test. Will the plantation be spared? Or will everything they’ve lived for be lost?
This is an epic sort of story, one that seemed to take me a while to read, but one I’m very glad I did. Dealing with slavery and sisterhood in the lead-up and duration of the US Civil War in the mid-nineteenth century, Sister of Mine is told from the perspective of two young Southern women, one the daughter of a rich Jewish landowner in Georgia, and the other her slave (and secret half-sister).
If you’re not from the United States you might want to familiarise yourself with the basics of the war (and where the various states are positioned) before starting – if you want to get the most out of the book.
I can’t tell you if every detail of the history is correct, but there does seem to be a staggering amount of research that went into this. It’s not that it overpowers the story, but that the casual mentions of everything from foods to fashions seemed to have been carefully researched before being put on the page.
This is historical fiction, which means there’s plenty of sadness to go with the better times. There are a few points in the story where you’re going to find some of the major players (very) difficult to like, but that seemed realistic to me, and it left lots of room for them to change and grow over the years and through the war.
Nobody is perfect here, and it is all much more complex with the topic of slavery and seeing a war through the eyes of the losing side, especially as some of it is told from the perspective of people who own slaves. I thought it was really brilliant how the author managed to turn characters’ minds around, and how she found a way for them to be on both sides of the conflict – sometimes at the same time.
Mostly, this is a bittersweet sort of story. It’s not fluff that you read through in a few hours, and it was exactly what I’d been looking for after one Regency ballroom too many in my recent reads.
Review copy provided by NetGalley.