Sunday, September 17, 2017

Odd & True

I have been eager to read a Cat Winters book for ages. Each one sounds so interesting--historical YA fiction set in the Pacific Northwest! Diverse characters and fantasy elements! But the pile gets bigger and best laid plans and so on. When Odd and True showed up on Netgalley though--sisters fighting monsters!--I figured, here's my chance.

My expectations based on the cover copy were of a bit of a rip-roaring adventure, but the book was actually very much about the relationship between the sisters and how two different people can live in the same family and have completely different experiences.  It's also about the stories we tell ourselves and the power they have over us.

The story is told from two points of view, in two timelines.  Tru's story begins on her fifteenth birthday in 1909, when her sister, who has been gone for two years, climbs through her window and asks her to run away with her. Tru isn't sure why their aunt sent Od away, but she's sent letters from the circus, and she tells Tru now that she's been making a living as a monster hunter, just as their mother and grandmother had done in all the tales Od told her sister through the years.

She begs Tru to run away with her, but Tru is doubtful. Because of childhood polio, she walks with a brace and a heavy limp; making her way in the world promises to be hard. But the tea leaves her sister taught her to read years ago have been showing her monsters--maybe it's her duty to fight them?

Odette's story starts in childhood, on the night her sister Trudchen is born.  We see all the stories that she's told her sister, but we see them as they really happened, with the drama and flourishes stripped away--living with their mother in a remote California canyon, visited occasionally by a charming but absent father and their loving uncle Magnus.

Tru is never quite sure whether Od's stories are true or invented, or whether Od herself believes them or not, is the core mystery of the novel, and I found myself wavering back and forth.  Even as I learned more and more of Od's own story, and as Tru tries to get more information out of her sister, my guess--is Od making this up? is she imagining things?--kept changing.

Tru is such a lovely character. She's practical and realistic, and combined with her physical limitations--she can't walk fast or for very long and is in pain most of the time--this makes her very doubtful of Od's plans.  But Tru is so brave and determined that nothing stops her.

And the loyalty of these sisters, in the face of what seem like insurmountable odds--natural and supernatural--is absolutely the core of what made this book such a pleasure.  It's what I always hoped I'd find when I finally picked up a Cat Winters book. Time to go start another one!

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