I’m a reader. When I open a book magic happens. Or in Heather Morris’s case magic doesn’t happen. When God said to Moses, you cannot look—directly—at me, but when I pass you might see my glory. When I read a book if I don’t see God’s face, I’m not too disappointed. After all, even international and bestselling authors are only human. I’ll wait for the glory to pass. And I don’t go very many places. The best writers transport you.
Where are we?
The three sisters, Cibi, Magda and Livi, sit in a tight circle in the small backyard of their home. The oleander bush their mother has tried so hard to coax back to life droops disconsolately in the corner of the small garden.
Livi the youngest, at three years old, leaps to her feet: sitting still is not in her nature.
‘Livi, please, will you sit down?’ Cibi tells her. At seven years old, she is the eldest of the siblings, and it is her responsibility to chastise them when they misbehave. ‘You know, Father wants to talk to us.’
‘No,’ three year-old Livi pronounces and proceeds to skip around the seated figures, giving a pat on the head as she passes, Magda, the middle sister, and five years old…
This is the prologue to three SISTERS. The reader knows who they are. They’ve been named. And the reader has been told twice Livi is three-years-old.
I ask again. Where are we? What are we?
‘Just keep walking. Livi. Stay in Line,’ Cibi murmurs to her sister.
Once they are through the gates, the girls are led down a tree-lined street, the first flush of sapling leaves waving in the cool breeze. Heat emanates from the harsh overhead lighting and Cibi is ironically reminded of a warm summer evening. They pass a grey concrete building, meeting the blank stares of young men and women who gaze back at them, expressionless, from the window.’
The first paragraph of the book has a tag attached, so the reader doesn’t confuse it with somewhere else, somewhere interesting: Vranov and Topl’ou, Slovakia.
The second tag tells the reader, what year it is, because it could be anytime, but it is June 1929.
The second paragraph transcribed, Chapter 7, Auschwitz, April 1942.
The narrator is Cibi, as she takes a stroll through the gates of Auschwitz, the gates of hell. She tries for irony, but finds only repetition, ‘blank stares,’ and ‘expressionless’ faces.
I do not see God passing. Nor do I see fallen humanity. Take out all the tags and I guess we could be in California, sunning ourselves on the beach, before nipping off to the local supermarket, which happens to be in a rundown part of town.
Heather Morris, international bestselling author of The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Her other works include Cilia’s Journey, which I’m glad to say is a journey I’ve made in abbreviated form, and Sources of Hope, which I have read in fuller form, is a writer who bumps along on the page dragging cliches behind her. But she must have something. I’m not quite sure what. I’ll not be reading any of her work again. You might think differently. Feel differently. Read on.