top of page

“Grips you from the very first page and immerses you deep in the

world of Mary Shelley as she attempts to live up to the legacy of

her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, and be true to herself.” –

Lucy Pick, author of Pilgrimage

“Kathleen Renk has written an engrossing narrative studded with

historic detail and the passionate experiences of a woman’s

extraordinary life.” – Amy Newman, author of On This Day in

Poetry History

“The remarkably sustained voice captures Mary Shelley, the

precocious girl, learned yet naïve, the wife and mother, suffering

through tragic losses, and the awakening writer and thinker. A

book lover’s delight.” – Mary Martin Devlin, author of Precious Pawn 

and Death in the Rainy Season

"There are many fictionalized accounts of Mary Shelley’s life, but

what makes this one feel so unique and fresh is how deeply it probes

into her psyche....The language in the diary entries dances between poetic, philosophical, and occasionally frightening. This is a beautifully written,

engaging novel that will stay with the reader for a long time." --

Janice Derr, reviewed in the Historical Novel Society Journal

Lizzie and her twin, Annie, are only five in 1928, when their Bohemian immigrant mother, their matka, dies of a stroke at age 39 after giving birth to ten children. Their papa, Dmitri, leaves Lizzie and Annie, along with two older siblings at the Hessoun Orphanage, the “Home” run by strict Czech nuns and dedicated to educating and bringing up Bohemian children to their "stations" in life. Although identical twins, Lizzie and Annie are opposites in terms of temperament and behavior. Annie is the saintly sister who believes that her Guardian Angel protects her; Lizzie is the mischievous twin who frequently gets reprimanded and punished by the Mother Superior, Sister Gustava. Lizzie questions everything and wants more than what "fate" intends for an Eastern European immigrant child. She wants to be a doctor, an aviator, or an athlete but her biggest and most immediate goal is to find a way for her and Annie to escape from the Home and return to their papa’s house, because the Home is far from being a true home.
ORPHAN ANNIE’S SISTER, based on the author’s mother and her twin’s lives, follows Lizzie’s life when she is ten during one year of the Depression, while interweaving local, national, and international news. Written as a journal addressed to her matka, her mother, this historical fiction novel reflects Lizzie’s struggles to be an obedient child, as she comes to terms with what home means when you have no mother and your father has “orphaned” you. Lizzie wants far more than what “fate” has allotted her and she questions much of what she’s been taught in her religious and ethnic upbringing. As she writes to her mother, she insists that she is an American, not a Bohemian child, and she discovers that she resembles the “freethinkers” in Bohemia who rebelled and broke away from the Catholic Church. 
bottom of page