Friday, March 25, 2016

Sister of Mine

Sister of Mine by Sabra Waldfogel

       We don’t always think of Jews as being slave holders in the South but if a planter had cotton they couldn’t do it without slaves.  As the only Jewish planter and thus slave owner in Georgia, Mordecai  Mannheim had a lot to protect.  Among these things, his daughter Adelaide.
      For her birthday as a child, Adelaide was given Rachel, a slave.  The two grew up together, Adelaide taught Rachel to read and write, they became friends and confidants.  But Rachel must always be conscious of her place.  When a grown Adelaide is paired with one of the few Jewish suitors in the state, it is because of Rachel’s treatment by him that Adelaide breaks off the engagement and this breaking of the engagement  is a scandal and a mark on Adelaide’s life for years.
      When Mordecai discovers Henry Kaltenbach, a dry goods merchant, he brings him home and sets him down in front of Adelaide.  Both Adelaide and Henry know what is meant by this introduction and they comply and marry. 
      Henry wants to make his fortune as a cotton planter and enlists the aide of Adelaide's father. But Henry also grapples constantly with the fact the Jews were held slave in Egypt and here he is, a slave owner himself, for the only purpose of making his fortune.  He is a kind, fair, gentle man and this torments him.
      When the Civil War comes to the family, there are real choices to be made, family secrets revealed, life decisions to be made.  And when deep inside the war a company of Union soldiers happens on the Georgia plantation to find a Union flag flying from the roof, the story all comes together.
      There are thousands of books about the Civil War and finding something different can be difficult but this author did bring things I didn’t think of and wrapped her story around them.  It was a refreshing take.

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