Sunday, September 15, 2019

Book Review: 'The Winter Sisters' by Tim Westover

The Winter Sisters by Tim Westover

One Superb Novel!

Georgia author Tim Westover earned his degrees form Davidson College in North Carolina and the University of Georgia and after traveling the world doing volunteer work and studying languages, he has returned to Georgia where he is employed by a medical software company in Lawrenceville. A touch of his nature is found in his biographical note – ‘I tell people that I don’t make up anything that I write. Generations before me have already found the best stories. I collect what I can from old folks, young folks, museums, signs, pamphlets, and old newspaper articles. And I tie them up with a little narrative to save as many of the old stories as I can.’

Tim’s passion for history, and especially for the history of Lawrenceville, is evident in his Prologue, set in the year 1811: ‘The fat orange moon, reflected in the silver bowl, seems so small. Effie, the youngest of three sisters, cups her hands to lift the moon out, but the water slips through her fingers. The ripples break the moon’s reflection into streaks of light. The sisters work on the bare granite of a clearing, a bald mountainside, under a sky rich with stars. People of a superstitious persuasion say the devil once trod on the balds. They say that’s why nothing will grow there and any remnants of trees look lightning blasted and scorched. But the balds have plenty f life. They’re slick with moss and lichens, and the tenacious stems of asafetida and yellow lady’s slipper and jack-in-the-pulpit have taken root…’ The scenery is well painted and the mood suggests the mystery that will follow. 

It is refreshing and invigorating to find an author with the immense talent that Tim Westover demonstrates in this superb novel – a book that successfully blends history, fantasy, medicine, and interpersonal relationships and differences. They story is memorable: ‘Dr. Waycross knows bleeding and blistering, the best scientific medicine of 1822. He arrives in the Georgia mountains to bring his modern methods to the superstitious masses. The local healers, the Winter sisters, claim to treat yellow fever, consumption, and the hell-roarin' trots just as well as he can. Some folks call the sisters herb women; some call them witches. Waycross calls them quacks. But when the threat of rabies—incurable and fatal—comes to town, Dr. Waycross and the Winter sisters must combine their science and superstition in a desperate search for a remedy. Can they find a miracle cure, or has the age of miracles passed?’

Challenging and rewarding in every aspect of the author’s imagination, niche for Southern history, and impressive writing skills, this book is one that will rise to the top when the awards are announced for 2019 novels. Very highly recommended

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.