”The Orphan Sisters” by Shirley Dickson, Bookouture, 2019, 360 pages

Dorothy and Etty were dropped off at the Blakely Orphanage by their mother. She assured them that it was just temporary. She’d come back to get them.

The orphanage was a terrible place with impossibly strict discipline and little food. It was typical of such places in Britain during World War II days. Etty was angry with her mother for abandoning them, but Dorothy continued to believe she’d return for the two little girls.

The sisters know nothing of their past. They struggle with wartime experiences. Ever present in their lives are questions of who, what and why. Their love for each other increases their characters because of the difficulties they cannot avoid.

Dorothy eventually aged out at 15 and left Blakely to take a job as a maid.

Etty couldn’t believe she still had many years to live in Blakely Orphanage without her sister. By the time Etty ages out, Dorothy has gotten a flat big enough for the three of them and goes to live with Dorothy and her husband Laurie.

The war is raging in full force, but in spite of the hardships of rationing, planes dropping bombs every night, the three of them were happy together. “The Orphan Sisters” is a novel you will lose yourself in, a superb page turner. The dialogue is so well-written the reader can actually hear the British accents.

The details feature various characters keeping a stiff upper lip during the nightly London blitz. When Lauri is deported overseas, the sisters become totally dependent on each other. Etty falls in love with a charming Billy who is engaged to a friend of the sisters. They carry on their secret relationship, as Etty cannot refuse him.

“The Orphan Sisters” is a heartbreaking story of children making a good life in spite of being abandoned by their mother. Many unforgettable and heartbreaking events happen in the story, but the emotions of forgiveness and love overcome such hostility.

Shirley Dickson says, as an author, she is a prime example of “never give up your dream.”

JoAn Watson Martin is an educator.

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