Exactly what is our fascination with Civil War drama? Is it the culture? The dresses? The “society”? Or is it the history? The slavery? The horror?
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In the spirit of The Kitchen House, and Glory Over Everything by Kathleen Grissom comes Sister of Mine by Sabra Waldfogel. A Civil War Story about family, and sisterhood despite the overwhelming racial issues of the time.
“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?”
Reading this synopsis, I was thinking the story was going to be more about what happened AFTER these Union soldiers showed up when actually the story is more about what happens BEFORE they even get there.
Obviously, this book is about two half-sisters and their life. Any story about sisters draws my interest because I have a sister! And sister relationships are very interesting to me.
Big K is the only person in this world that has been through the same things as me, has been there from the very beginning, has lost the same parents, has dealt with the same family issues, and has the same hormones as me.
Sisters are amazing. If you are lucky enough to have one, you have a relationship that can last an entire lifetime. I believe even those sisters that have rocky roads, have a connection that goes beyond anything else.
Sister of Mine is clearly a well-researched novel about the Southern Jews, a group of people I hadn’t ever even considered before. The way that Ms. Waldfogel relates with each of the characters is actually quite deep and moving. She has an ability to portray an amazing depth of feeling for her characters that goes beyond simple understanding.
As usual, I listened to the audiobook of Sister of Mine which was great! Each of the women, Rachel and Adelaide, tell the story from their own viewpoint which is always a treat when listening.
Adelaide is the daughter of a wealthy Jewish plantation owner in the deep south, and Rachel is her slave, a gift from her father.
And they share the same father.
Although Adelaide doesn’t know the truth, the slaves all know that Mordecai is Rachel’s dad. Even Rachel knew at a very young age. Plantation owners often had unacknowledged children with their slaves. It seems that many of them did not even consider these kids their own! Imagine that…
Both of these women are trapped in their own situations. Adelaide is bound by the rules of decorum and the obedience required by her father. Although comfortably white and wealthy, she is ultimately the property of her father until married to another.
Rachel’s situation is more complex. Not only is she bound by slavery to her master, her body is not her own and she is reminded of this constantly. Her desire to be “free” is overwhelming and yet she cannot fathom what “free” means.
Rachel’s thoughts and feelings throughout the book fascinated me. As a white, Christian girl, living in the United States in 2017, I cannot, in my wildest dreams understand what life was like for Rachel. I cannot understand what it means to be owned by someone. What it means to feel that even my soul is not my own.
I think that is why I am drawn to Civil War stories. I want to understand the suffering. I want to understand why people thought this was OK.
I keep hoping for some kind of answer and it never comes.
That being said, Sister of Mine was a great book. I learned something, I felt something, and it left me thinking.
4 Etymons for Sister of Mine by Sabra Waldfogel