While you could read Odd and True as a story of sisterhood and believing in ourselves, a much more thorough reading would reveal the very origins of fairy tales. And here is where Winters shines. We are treated to a fabulous tale of friendship, of defying the expectations of society, and embracing our hope. Along the way, Winters also probes beneath, to the power of fairy tales, to their ability to inspire.
Stories have always been Trudchen’s favorite way of celebrating her birthday, especially the one about her birth in the far off castle, with her monster slaying mother, and the magical disappearance of her father. But now that Odette, her sister, has been away for two years with only letters as correspondence, Tru wonders if these stories her sister told her were merely fairy tales, because her life seems far from a wondrous story. Disabled from her polio, Tru struggles to explore the world and feels like a burden on her aunt.
But two years later, Od returns, on the very eve of her birthday saying she returned to protect Tru from her monster slayer awakening. Whisking her away, Od and Tru cross America in search of answers personal to each. One searches for their mother, while the other searches for the next monster to slay now that they are reunited. However, it becomes clearer to Tru as the journey progresses that Od is haunted by something of her own and Tru starts to question everything she knew about her sister, her family, and the journey they are on.
Fairy tales have power. You can feel it in their language, their purpose, and their popularity. The language of fairy tales: once upon a time, happily ever after, are pervasive in culture today. They have become legends in and of itself – symbols for a story of love, bravery, and magic. These stories captivate us, entertain us, and educate us. They warn us of the dangers of straying from the path. Warning us of shadows in the night, monsters masquerading as humans, and playing with fire. As cautionary tales, they inspire fear both: unreal wolves wearing human skin, and of stepping outside the boundary of acceptable societal behavior.
Yet what could be more popular than fairy tales? Their popularity encourages movies, retellings, and more all that represent the power that fairy tales have over our mundane everyday life. They also symbolize hope. The idea that someone from the very poorest of classes could rise above and marry a prince, or save a kingdom. Hope is found in these words, the heroines we never thought we could be, and the lives that seem beyond our grasp. But what if it wasn’t?
Trudchen and Odette
While I was expecting to love Trudchen, as the narrator of the story, Odette is the one who stole my heart. A fellow bookworm, Od is this complex character who had to grow up too fast, surviving on the stories from her Uncle, and tasked with giving Tru a taste of childhood. Unprepared for the world, Od is thrust into the cold, and she makes mistakes. But she grows up from them, discovers her own power, and bears her share of hardship.
Part of the reason I loved Od so much is the unique way Winters wrote the book – Tru’s narration of her life going forwards, and Od’s memories of the past going backwards. Because of this we glimpse the ‘truth’ behind the stories from Od’s perspective. This felt very much like watching the birth of a legendary story. Witnessing the real facts that became symbols, the men who became monsters, and the women who became heroines.
Throughout the entire novel, Winters plays with this line between the unreal and the magical. Making us question what is real. This constant jump from back to forth climaxes at the end of the novel as Tru and Od are forced to confront their past, own demons, and the question of their magical powers. The ending, and twist will surprise you and make you appreciate the story once again. It takes the story from an enchanting story to one about the true nature of fairy tales: the ones we inhabit in a world full of whimsy.
Odd and True tells us a story of its own, one with heroines who discover powers, women who become role models, and the legacy of stories we pass onto our children. You’ll love this book not only for its story, but also for how it speaks to our hearts. It confirms the importance of stories to our childhood souls, the power of our origin stories, and the way we are able to cast ourselves in these stories – to find our own monsters, confront our fears, and become our own heroes.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley.
If you could be cast as a fairytale character, which would you choose?
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