#BookReview: Sisters of Heart and Snow by Margaret Dilloway

Reviewer: Leah

I received a review copy

sisters of heart and snowSummary:

The award-winning author of How to Be an American Housewife returns with a poignant story of estranged sisters, forced together by family tragedy, who soon learn that sisterhood knows no limits.

Rachel and Drew Snow may be sisters, but  their lives have followed completely different paths.

Married to a wonderful man and a mother to two strong-minded teens, Rachel hasn’t returned to her childhood home since being kicked out by her strict father after an act of careless teenage rebellion. Drew, her younger sister, followed her passion for music but takes side jobs to make ends meet and longs for the stability that has always eluded her. Both sisters recall how close they were, but the distance between them seems more than they can bridge. When their deferential Japanese mother, Hikari, is diagnosed with dementia and gives Rachel power of attorney, Rachel’s domineering father, Killian becomes enraged.

In a rare moment of lucidity, Hikari asks Rachel for a book in her sewing room, and Rachel enlists her sister’s help in the search. The book—which tells the tale of real-life female samurai Tomoe Gozen, an epic saga of love, loss, and conflict during twelfth-century Japan—reveals truths about Drew and Rachel’s relationship that resonate across the centuries, connecting them in ways that turn their differences into assets.


After Rachel Snow was kicked out of her parents’ house by her father when she was a teenager, her relationship to her mother and younger sister severely suffered. Now with her mother suffering from dementia, and Rachel being the one given the power of attorney; she finds herself once again at odds with her father. To make her stress levels rise even higher, Rachel also has her daughter Quincy’s wedding she is helping to plan.

Drew Snow has never been rebellious, brave, independent, or assertive like her big sister Rachel. Instead Drew has always been compliant and willing to squash her own feelings to not upset or anger those around her. Since college, Drew joined a band with her boyfriend; putting aside her own love of playing the viola to fit her boyfriend’s vision. When he dumped her as an artist and girlfriend; she found herself continuing her temporary job and unsure of what to do. When she loses her job she finds herself at even more of a loss, but then she receives a call from Rachel asking about a book their mother mentioned. Will this search for the special book bring the girls closer together? Or drive them farther apart?

In between the sisters of Snow, the book tells the story of the legendary female samurai, Tomoe Gozen. She leads the army in Yoshinaka’s military, also being his concubine. When Yoshinaka marries a girl from court, Yamabuki, Tomoe resents everything about her. But as the two spend more time together, they grow to become sisters of the Heart; and discover that both hold traits that help each be stronger.

I thought this book was phenomenal. The relationship between sisters was done extremely well for a person who doesn’t have a sister, as the author Margaret Dilloway, was able to truly capture the love, the anger, the fighting, the loyalty, and every other emotion that comes along with having a sister. Most novels that are divided between sisters often fall into making the girls one-dimensional, and typically the smart one and the pretty one. With this novel the Snow sisters are first split between assertive and compliant, believing that one is closer to Tomoe and the other Yamabuki; but as you continue to read the book both sisters show that they contain more than one trait and encompass characteristics of both Tomoe and Yamabuki.

The sections on Tomoe and Yamabuki were incredibly enthralling. My knowledge of Japanese history is limited beyond artwork, but reading this was incredible as it not only brought history alive, but brought on a desire to learn more of the time period.  The fictionalized writing was extremely well done as every page I read turned into ten more as I had to know what happens next to Tomoe, how her and Yamabuki’s relationship will grow, and whether they will be able to overcome their trials.

I found this almost impossible to put down. If I didn’t have to work the day I was reading, I would have sat in the same position never moving except to flip the page until I had completed the novel. Even when I wasn’t reading the book, its plot remained in my mind, as it was so compelling I couldn’t turn away from it.

5 stars

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