Book Review: Slave and Sister by Sabra Waldfogel

 

 

SLAVE AND SISTER

Adelaide Mannheim and her slave Rachel have grown up with a shameful secret. Adelaide’s father is Rachel’s father, too. Their secret shadows their girlhood together and follows them into Adelaide’s marriage. As the Civil War breaks out, Adelaide’s husband falls in love with Rachel, and the lives of mistress and slave are torn apart. Slavery made them kin. Can the Civil War make them sisters?

 

5 Stars  History is personal

Reviewed by mlpage on June 10, 2014

As a former history teacher, I appreciate well-researched historical fiction. Since so many readers rely on Gone with the Wind as their template for slave owners, it’s refreshing to find a book with multi-faceted
characters among the planter class, the slaves, and non slaveholding whites. In addition, to discover a book that
embeds the particular dilemma for Jewish slaveholders is a true find. In Sabra Waldfogel’s novel, history does not trump the story line and the rhythm of the book. She is able to contextualize the story with a newspaper reference or a tidbit of gossip heard in town. If you are knowledgable about the Civil War battles, you’ll be able to track the
course of the war through Henry’s letters home to Rachel. The characters in the book are faced with the dilemmas of survival like every southern family during the Civil War but they also confront ethical dilemmas. We are privy to their deliberations and their thought process without any anachronistic rationales seeping into their 19th century minds.
Jew or Christian, black or white, northerner or southerner, male or female–any reader will close this book with not just more knowledge, but with greater understanding of the chaos and traumas engendered by slavery in the US.

 

About the Author

Sabra Waldfogel

Sabra Waldfogel grew up far from the South in Minneapolis. She studied history at Harvard University and received her Ph.D. in American History from the University of Minnesota. She has worked as a technical writer and has written about historic architecture for Old House Journal and Arts and Crafts Homes. Her short story “Yemaya” appeared in Sixfold’s Winter 2013 fiction issue. Slave and Sister is her first novel.

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