Trudchen grew up hearing Odette’s stories of their monster-slaying mother and a magician’s curse. But now that Tru’s older, she’s starting to wonder if her older sister’s tales were just comforting lies, especially because there’s nothing fantastic about her own life—permanently disabled and in constant pain from childhood polio.
In 1909, after a two-year absence, Od reappears with a suitcase supposedly full of weapons and a promise to rescue Tru from the monsters on their way to attack her. But it’s Od who seems haunted by something. And when the sisters’ search for their mother leads them to a face-off with the Leeds Devil, a nightmarish beast that’s wreaking havoc in the Mid-Atlantic states, Tru discovers the peculiar possibility that she and her sister—despite their dark pasts and ordinary appearances—might, indeed, have magic after all.
Sisters Odette and Trudchen Grey grew up believing that their mother was a monster hunter, and Od never stopped telling Tru stories of their mother’s exploits, even after they were sent to live on their aunt’s Oregon farm as girls. In 1909, on Tru’s 15th birthday, Od returns after a two-year absence (she says she joined a circus) and insists that Tru leave with her. Tru is hesitant—her leg, nearly useless after a bout with polio, slows her down—but eventually it’s onward to Philadelphia they go, confronting their pasts and maybe even something right out of a nightmare. The story jumps between the sisters’ viewpoints, past and present, and as the truth of Od’s time in the “circus” becomes clear, so does her heartbreak, and the lengths she’s gone to protect her sister. Winters’s captivating, poignant tale of childhood magic and the bond between sisters ends a bit neatly, but readers won’t care, drawn steadily forward by the book’s mysteries and by Od and Tru’s resilient faith in each other. Ages 12–up. Agent: Barbara Poelle, Irene Goodman Literary. (Sept.)
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Winters...is a master at weaving historical events into dramatic narratives touched by the supernatural; careful attention is paid to the very real panic around the 1909 sightings of the Devil."
"Thought-provoking, atmospheric, and utterly bewitching...Winters deftly weaves historical events in to her novel, which further enlivens this early twentieth-century tale."
International Literacy Association
"There is just enough mysticism and fantasy to entice readers, making them eager to spend more time with the sisters."
★ 08/01/2017School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Trudchen, a polio survivor who reads tea leaves, is the younger sister to Odette, and both are Maria's daughters. All through Tru's youth, Od would fill her head with magical, fantastical stories to fill the dark times. After a two-year absence, Od returns looking haunted and accompanied by a case full of mysterious weapons that she promises will help kill monsters. Soon, the siblings whisk away on an adventure to find their mother, and many interesting characters and events cross their path. This story, which takes place in early 1900s Oregon, alternates from the sisters' past and their present, and is told through Tru and Od's perspectives. Through the interweaving time lines and points of view, readers will begin to question if the girls really do have magical powers. Teens will be anticipating what lurks in the next chapter. The story is adventurous and fast paced, and Winters' atmospheric writing and exploration of themes such as storytelling, family, disability, and trauma will entice many teens. VERDICT An excellent purchase for creepy historical fiction shelves, especially where the author's works are popular.—Maeve Dodds, Charlotte Mecklenburg Lib., NC
A tale of two sisters unfolds in Winters' (The Steep and Thorny Way, 2016, etc.) latest historical offering of monsters, magic, and family.Storytelling and the blur between truth and fiction are at the heart of this metafictive narrative as sisters Trudchen "Tru" and Odette "Od" Grey each tell parts of their personal and family histories. In 1909, 15-year-old Tru, rendered pragmatic by life on an Oregon farm with a polio-related and painful disability, no longer believes her sister's many fantastical tales of their mother's adventures as a monster hunter. She is adamant that their family (and herself especially) is nothing but ordinary, but no sooner has Tru set aside fanciful hearth magic and fears of the supernatural than Od suddenly appears to whisk her away across the country to hunt down monsters. Od's part of the story, on the other hand, begins 15 years earlier as she recounts a fraught family legacy of loss, pain, and perseverance and of the "real-life monsters" that stalk the stories of her mother's and her own lives. As the sisters cautiously confront the legendary Leeds Devil, a demonic beast attacking New Jersey and nearby states in 1909, storytelling becomes both a weapon and a lens through which they come to see and better understand their family and themselves. Winters has woven an intricate and innovative pattern of structure, genre, and history that cannot fail to capture readers' imaginations. (Historical fiction. 14-adult)