Goodreads: Odd and True
Publication Date: September 12, 2017
Trudchen grew up hearing Odette’s stories of their monster-slaying mother and a magician’s curse. But now that Tru’s older, she’s starting to wonder if her older sister’s tales were just comforting lies, especially because there’s nothing fantastic about her own life—permanently disabled and in constant pain from childhood polio.
In 1909, after a two-year absence, Od reappears with a suitcase supposedly full of weapons and a promise to rescue Tru from the monsters on their way to attack her. But it’s Od who seems haunted by something. And when the sisters’ search for their mother leads them to a face-off with the Leeds Devil, a nightmarish beast that’s wreaking havoc in the Mid-Atlantic states, Tru discovers the peculiar possibility that she and her sister—despite their dark pasts and ordinary appearances—might, indeed, have magic after all.
Odd and True is the electrifying yet heartwarming story of two sisters who team together to hunt monsters in early twentieth century America. I’m always in favor of a good story about sisters, and Odd and True puts that relationship in the forefront, as the protagonists—Odette (Od) and Trudchen (Tru)—support each other even as they work through different opinions and try to come to terms with the fact that both of them have secrets.
Family in general is at the forefront of the story, as Od and Tru deal with their troubled past in different ways—partially because, as the older sibling, Od has totally different memories of their early childhood than Tru does. The book switches between their points of view, with Tru narrating the present day action of their new quest to hunt down a devil they believe to be terrorizing the area around Philadelphia, while Od’s chapters focus on the past—her childhood and then a few teen years she spent away from true. The result is a richly textured story that addresses love, loss, identity, and the definition of family itself.
The monster hunting aspect of the story is deliciously creepy yet not always the most compelling part of the story. Winters plays coy, making readers wonder what exactly about monsters is real and how the story as a whole is going to play out. It’s also worth noting that she keeps the story tight by featuring one primary monster the sisters go after. This may be disappointed to readers who expected a little more gallivanting and epic showdowns, but I really liked it. Some books in a similar vein cram in so many monsters that the fights seem episodic or even repetitive; Winters builds the excitement up around one main moment that’s really worth it.
I had never read a book by Cat Winters before Odd and True, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. If you read my reviews regularly, you probably know I have a tendency towards disgruntled mutterings about the sad state of prose in contemporary, particularly YA fiction (as much as I love YA). Well, Winters’s prose is beautiful. She drew me into the story with it from the opening pages, and the beauty never flagged. The chapters from Odette’s point of view have a particular tendency towards the magical and whimsical which really worked with Winters’s style.
I would be willing to read another novel by Winters just because of the writing in this one, but the story and character development are also remarkably well done. It’s a great blend of magic, historical fiction, and real world issues. Highly recommended.