In Slovakia, years before World War II, the three young Meller sisters made a promise to their ill father that they would always stay together. Their promise would be tested in 1942 when the Nazis started to round up all the Jewish teenagers. Middle sister Magda, age 17, was sent to the local hospital for protection while Cibi, the oldest at 19 and young Livi, age 15, were rounded up and told they were being sent to do work for the Germans. They were transported and sent to a compound of barbed wired buildings with an entry sign reading Arbeit Macht Frei. They were sent to Auschwitz.
Heather Morris, author of The Tattooist of Auschwitz and Cilka’s Journey, has again adapted a true-life story in her new historical novel. As with the first two books, which I was very moved by, Three Sisters details the harrowing experiences of a family during wartime and beyond. From a loving, peaceful existence in Vranov to a horrendous period that continues to defy reason. And later in Israel, where survivors worked to rebuild their lives with the mental and visible scars serving as constant reminders of all that they had experienced and those they had lost.
The author brings us into the day-to-day horrors of Auschwitz and Birkenau while showing how the love of family and the will to survive can bring about remarkable resiliency. This is a not a new theme and other books have heartbreakingly taken readers into the depths of the concentration camps. But knowing this is a true story (with some fictional elements) makes it all the more impactful. And as hard it is to read of the suffering, it is also uplifting to learn of life after the war filled with children and grandchildren. It is painful, however, to think of all the children and grandchildren who were never born because so many did not survive. Books like Three Sisters keep us remembering this.
Note that while Morris’ three novels are presented as a trilogy, they are essentially standalone books. Each one is worth reading in any order you choose.
Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this powerful book in advance of its release.
Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Publication Date: October 5, 2021.
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