Wednesday 8 February 2017

Sister of Mine

Finished February 7
Sister of Mine by Sabra Waldfogel, performed by Bahni Turpin

This historical novel begins with a scene when two Union soldiers get separated from their scouting party and notice a Union flag on a well kept plantation. Approaching the house, they find a group of people gathered on the porch. A white woman and several black women and men. They are welcomed, fed, and their wounds are treated.
The story then jumps back twelve years to 1852, when Adelaide Mannheim, daughter of Mordecai Mannheim, a Jewish planter in northern Georgia was given her own maid, a slave named Rachel. The two girls become friends, much to the annoyance of Adelaide's mother, and soon realize that Rachel is also Mordecai's child, which explains Adelaide's mother's feelings toward her. Mordecai is a businessman, trading in many goods besides what he grows on his plantation, and he is pleased when Rachel shows an aptitude for figures as well, quizzing her when she has been tidying his study. Adelaide has secretly taught her to read as well.
When Adelaide gets to be a young lady, her mother insists that she leave school and travel to Savannah, where there is a large Jewish community, to find a suitor. Adelaide quickly meets a young man that she likes, but both her and Rachel discover that they are naive when it comes to relationships. When things go badly, both retire to the plantation, where Rachel learns more, and Adelaide's health suffers. A new opportunity for both leads them to new beginnings, but also more heartache and gradually they form a new different relationship.
This is a story of slavery and the realities of life in the South during the plantation era. While it is fiction, it is based in fact. Many Jews in the south did own slaves, as they adjusted to the society they moved into. As slave-owners, they ran the gamut from kind to cruel.
Many children were born into slavery despite being fathered by the white men who owned their mothers, growing up alongside their half-siblings, but with few of the advantages.
This book has depth for both the plot and the characters, and I found it enlightening.

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