This book is a retelling of the fairytale of Snow White and Rose Red. For those of you unfamiliar with this fairytale (like I was), here's the link to the Wiki page that explains it: Snow White and Rose Red
At the beginning of the book, we meet Liga, a girl who's 15 years old and lives with only her father, her mother died some time ago. They live estranged from the rest of the village and Liga's father doesn't like her going there and meeting people. He doesn't want them to find out he's sexually abusing his daughter and even getting her pregnant.
Liga wants this baby very badly and after her father dies, there's no one stopping her from keeping it. Liga loves the girl very much and thinks all her worries are over, living a simple life in the cottage of her father. But then something horrible happens to her again and after this, at the height of her despair, she and her baby girl are transported to her personal heaven, an alternate reality so to speak.
She and her now two daughters live there peacefully for some years, when the first cracks begin to show and an ungrateful little person and bears pop through from the real world.
Liga and her daughters learn that leaving the real world behind doesn't mean you never have to go back to it.
This book was a little darker than I'm used to, which I didn't expect from the premise that it was a fairytale retelling. It deals heavily with sexual abuse and is pretty frank about sex altogether. Which is why it took me a while to get into. I really liked Liga and her daughters Branza and Urdda, Liga and Branza are more mellow, while Urdda is a fierce spirit. I also loved the first Bear that came into their world, actually a person transformed into a bear while entering their world. He was such a noble character and gave Liga a reason to trust men again.
I like the broader message that's being given in the book: you can't run away from your troubles forever. Using the ostrich method of just sticking your head in the sand till it's over won't work. Liga comes to realize this and I like the character development that Lanagan shows in her. We see how she outgrows the idea of heaven she had as a 15 year old.
One thing I had trouble with, was the change in POV that were not always very clear. The author never used the first person POV in scenes with Liga and her children, but all of a sudden there'd be a scene with first person POV without it being clear immediately who 'I' was. There was a storyline towards the end with other Bears, that I think detracted from the flow of the story and didn't really add to the book in general.
I was rooting for it to end differently, but I can understand this ending and admit that it makes more sense.
All in all, I'd say this book was definitely worth reading, but I wouldn't recommend it to people who are squeamish about sexual abuse, though the author isn't very explicit about it, it's mentioned, but not really shown.
My rating: 3.5 stars