Three Sisters

Written by Heather Morris
Review by Jon G. Bradley

Written in three sequential chronological parts, this Holocaust novel drives readers through the turbulent years of pre- and post-World War II Central Europe. Commencing late in 1929, where the eldest daughter of a Jewish family, a mere child, is prophetically charged by her father to “always take care of the girls,” the chronicle winds through the war years before culminating in the newly emerging country of Israel. In many ways, the central narrative is anchored in the cauldron that was the concentration camp environment.

Based on a true story, this multi-character, dense narrative follows three sisters (Magda, Cibi, and Livi) as, against all odds, they actually survive the camps and find each other. Emerging lost and futureless in 1945, they struggle to imagine a positive postwar life.

Stories that detail concentration camp existence, especially over four years, are fraught with literary danger. What words must be used to describe, yet not repel, how are the inhumane conditions portrayed, and which character flaws become amplified? As a subtext, is there a spark of humanity even in these situations? Morris carefully crafts her scenarios in limited, erudite “chunks” shifting back and forth in time as well as geographic locations. As such, she strategically offers the reader a respite from the horrors being graphically described.

The reader is left to ponder how these three teenage females survived. For a single person to survive such camp life is an incredible accomplishment; two is clearly astounding; while three borders on being a miracle. Additionally, for all three sisters to have escaped from one camp and to have successfully entered new lives in a new country might well be considered a triumph of humanity over adversity.