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A Fist Around the Heart

3.28  ·  Rating details ·  57 ratings  ·  38 reviews
The story of Anna Grieve and her fragile older sister, Esther, begins in Russia in the 1880s. The vicious persecution of Jews has come to such a point that the girls’ mother makes the decision to send her children to Winnipeg with her wealthy employers. Her intention is to join them, but the sisters never see their mother again. Frightened and cut adrift, each girl reacts ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published April 10th 2018 by Second Story Press
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Average rating 3.28  · 
Rating details
 ·  57 ratings  ·  38 reviews

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Apr 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
2.5 not quite sure stars

Two Jewish sisters arrive in Winnipeg escaping from the pogroms after Tsar Alexander was assassinated. They are raised by Count and Countess and Anna, the younger sister leaves for Manhattan at age fifteen and is pregnant by her boyfriend from Russia (how he comes to Canada is not clear). Esther the older sister, stays in Winnipeg eventually marrying. Esther becomes pregnant an does not want the child so she has an abortion in New York with the help of her sis
Karen Kay
I received this from in exchange for a review.

Two sisters, Anna and Esther, escape the persecution of Jews when their mother decides to send them to Winnipeg with her wealthy employers.

I felt like the story had no true structure. It jumped back and forth so quickly, it was hard to follow. There were so many incidents related and too many historical concepts pushed into the story that created a jumbled telling of this tale.

2.75 confused stars rounded up to 3☆
♥ Sandi ❣
4 stars Thanks to NetGalley, author Heather Chisvin, and Second Story Press for a chance to read this ARC. Publishes 4/10/18.

Two sisters traveling to Canada with the Count and Countess, sent away from Russia by their Mother. The Count expecting the parents to soon follow, ends up adopting the girls, Esther and Anna, when their parent never make the trip. The story covers the next 25 years in their lives.

It settles between the current day and their back story, taking us through the death of a h
Mel (Epic Reading)
A short novel that has many interesting facts in it. My personal favourite fact was that Avon originated as the California Perfume Company. Unfortunately A Fist Around the Heart reads less like a novel and more like a biography. Now if that appeals to you then you may find this an interesting book. However if you are looking for a mystery or thriller, like the blurb implies, you should head elsewhere.

The Story
Set predominantly in New York Heather Chisvin tells the story of two sisters. One whom i
Davida Chazan
In this sweeping historical fiction novel, Heather Chisvin takes us along a journey of two sisters who flee late 19th century Russia through to Canada and America of the early and mid-20th century. There, one sister must come to terms with her past, but the other continues to be tortured by it, with tragic results. You can read my review of Chisvin’s debut novel on my blog here.
Penny (Literary Hoarders)
I could go to 3.5 stars. There was a section toward the end that kind of veered way off course for me and I couldn't get with it/believe it too much so felt that took away from the story. Overall, a good story about the younger sister taking care of the older sister and her increasing mental health issues, but wanting to be independent and living her own free life at the same time.

If Day was a campaign that happened in Winnipeg, Manatoba, Feb. 19, 1942. It was meant as a way to, basically, scare the local population into buying more war bonds. Just the way we have emergency drills these days, where accidents, or earthquakes, or natural disasters are simulated, often on a grand scale, to make sure everyone is ready when it strikes, this too was a massive undertaking to show what would happen if the Nazis invaded Canada.

They went all out. They took over the scho
Ria 🎈
Mar 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Actual rating: 3.25 stars

I have delayed this book for sooo long. I just never had the energy to pick it up again once I've put it down. But finally, FINALLY, I've finished it (last year actually before 2018 ended) and I've come with, you called it, a review.

A Fist Around the Heart is about the relationship of two sisters, Anna and Esther, who were forced to migrate to Winnipeg by their mother to escape the chaos in Russia. Since then, they were forced to live with their mother’s employers as th
Feb 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was not exactly as how it was described. I thoroughly enjoyed the story, but it did not dwell on Anna going to Winnipeg to look into seeing if the “If Day” had caused her sister’s death. Yes, she did go to Winnipeg to try and prove her sister was not suicidal. The story begins when Esther and Anna are just past middle age and it retraces their lives back to young girls when their mother gave them away to the Count and the Countess for safekeeping. It gives a lot of background on Manhat ...more
Apr 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Two Russian Jewish sisters were sent to Winnipeg during the Anti-Jewish pogroms in the Russian Empire following the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881. Esther, the older sister, spends her entire life in Winnipeg, occasionally experiencing episodes of mental illness; Anna, younger by four years, moves to New York City and ends up being a women’s rights activist there. In 1942, Esther returns to Winnipeg when she learns her sister has died in an apparent suicide. Having difficulty believi ...more
Laura Hill
Mar 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Thank you to Second Story Press and NetGalley for an early review copy of A First Around the Heart Side by Heather Chisvin, which will publish April 10, 2018.  All thoughts are my own.
Writing: 3 Characters: 3 Plot: 4

Quite the grand undertaking! This historical novel follows the fortunes of two young Jewish sisters who are sent to Winnipeg, Manitoba, from a Russian shtetl in order to escape the pogroms in 1881. Anna eventually makes her way to New York where, fiercely independent and w
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: did-not-finish
The summary drew me straight away, and so did the cover. I found the setting very interesting as I don't see that often. The beginning of the book was compelling to read, but then it went downhill for me. I have read other reviews, and mostly everyone else seems to have loved it, so I think it's just that it didn't work for me.

I want to start by saying I found the way Heather Chisvin wrote the story quite clever. She goes back and forth between past and present and you have to piece
Lael Braday
May 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Anna “Bencke” Grieve’s life changed after Tsar Alexander II’s assassination. In fear for their lives as Jews, her mother, a privileged servant, asked her employers Count and Countess Chernovski to take Bencke and her older sister Esther with them to Canada. The Chernovski’s later adopt them, believing their parents to be dead. Bencke does her best to care for Esther, who suffers episodes from traumatic memories that incapacitate her at times, as she herself tries to fit her eccentric personality ...more
Madhuri Palaji
Apr 16, 2018 rated it liked it
I never had a sister but I always wished I had one because I always thought I wouldn't have to look outside for a best friend and an ally if I had a sister. The story revolves around two sisters Anna and Esther who born in Russia but sent to live in Winnipeg with the Count and Countess. Esther is elder to Anna, beautiful but emotionally disturbed. Anna is the younger one, tall, but stronger with independent ideas. Esther has her episodes now and then and Anna is always there to support her. Anna ...more
KellI Preston
Mar 07, 2018 rated it liked it
3 Stars, it kills me that I had to take it down to 3. At about halfway through I was sure it was going to be a solid 4 if not a 5 star read for me. What happened? The last 1/4 happened. The story started out strong and I loved Anna and her independence. The flashbacks were placed nicely in the story and I really liked how it flowed from the present day to the past with great connections. I like the writing style and how the author voiced her characters. But then the last part, the Russia story l ...more
Apr 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley-ebooks
I'll give this a 3.75 - almost a 4, but not quite there. Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a copy of A Fist Around the Heart in exchange for an honest review!

A Fist Around the Heart follows two sisters who are sent away by their mother in order to keep them safe in a time of heightened anti-Semitism. Both sisters, though together as they grow up, have very different experiences while living with their new 'parents'. Esther develops a severe case of mental illness, while Anna attempts t/>A
Doreen Prentiss Gabriellini
‘A Fist Around The Heart’ is the first novel by Heather Chisvin After doing a little research I believe that Heather drew from her own experiences. She is the daughter of a Russian immigrant that moved to Canada. The story is about two sisters who leave Russia and immigrate to Winnipeg.

The story begins in the late 1880's when the Jews were being persecuted in Russia. The novel covers just over 60 years, and it is obvious that the author did considerable historical research. I enjoyed
Reeca Elliott
May 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle-app, netgalley
Anna receives a call about her sister. She is dead! Run over by a train. Was she pushed? Was this suicide?

Anna’s sister, Esther, is a damaged soul. Anna and Esther are given, by their mother, to a Count and Countess of Russia to be taken to safety at the beginning of the Russian revolution. Nothing is ever the same. Anna begins to rebel and Esther is prone to bouts of melancholy and mental detachments.

This story is narrated by Anna. And I love her tenacity, her hard work
Heather Persing
Apr 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned-to-read
***I received this book from Second Story Press through Netgalley. All opinions are my own***

Good parts: This book touched on a good bit of history from the 1890s to the 1930s (in Russia and the US) without you even realizing it. I thought the author weaved it into the story so well; it didn’t feel like a forced history lesson. I also thought the main character’s sister (Esther) had an interesting story. Her character seemed much more developed, and I probably would have given it fou
Feb 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc-s, net-galley
*I received this book from NetGalley in return for an honest review*

This book really touched my heart. A story of sisters torn from their homeland of Russia to come to Winnipeg without their parents and away from everything they have ever known. Told in alternating viewpoints from the present (of 1942) as well as the past (from their arrival in Winnipeg in the 1880's) you learn the story of two sisters, Esther and Anna and of Esther's untimely death.

Anna has been separate from Esthe
Feb 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a heart-breaking but fascinating book about two young sisters sent to Canada to escape the Russian pogrom in the late 1800's. The story follows in retrospect the experiences of the younger girl through her complicated life - the early women's rights struggle, the historic beginnings of the birth control movement, both of the world wars, the events of the Bolshevik revolution and its communist aftermath, mental health issues, her personal life experiences, ... - all while trying to unders ...more
Leslie M.
Apr 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
I read a number of WWII era stories. In fact, it’s one of my favorite genres to read.

The story follows two sisters, Anna and Esther, from Russia who are sent to live in Canada. It goes through the war period and “If Day.” Some parts weren’t as developed as I expected or am used to finding in a historical novel. Things seem to wrap up a bit too quickly. There are some turns that keep pulling the reader back to the story, which is good, as it was occasionally difficult for me to stay connected to
Damaris Tonner
Dec 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: net-galley
The premise of this book was fascinating, an interesting time of history and an interesting setting. However, I felt the scope and breadth was a little too large and left the mystery hanging where the reader wanted it to deepen. The characterization and development of the way life was in the 20th century was very well executed, as were the relational ties between characters and cameos/references to historical figures throughout the pages. Yet it fell short in some of the ways it dealt with Esthe ...more
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
I already want to thank the Netgalley website for allowing me to read this book.

On the cover we see Anna on the platform of a train station. It all began in the 1880s when Anna's mother and Esther sent them to Winnipeg after many persecutions of Jews. Each governs differently to his new life. Anna knows that her sister is suffering from this but she will have to leave and after a while she learns that her sister Esther has committed suicide. She will try to find out more about her s
Janette Mcmahon
Apr 17, 2018 rated it liked it
A historical fiction novel reminding us the persecution of Jews was not only WW II, but also in Russia where this novel takes place. We are also reminded even as Jewish women were considered animals, soldiers had no issues with taking advantage of them, even children. The ramifications of this abuse lasts a lifetime. While the theme was excellent, the book itself felt like it stayed on top of the issues and didn't delve as deep as the author easily could have.
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: edelweiss
I received this book in exchange of an honest review. This book wasn't for me I wasn't interested in the chracters at all. The premise drew me in and I thought this book would have more to do with the war but halfway in we were focused only on Esther and her "suicide". The halfway point is where I stopped as I just wasn't interested. The writing in the book is done well I just didn't feel connection with the book.
Tina Milledge
Mar 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Grateful to Netgalley and publisher for the opportunity to read in exchange for an honest review. This was an interesting story about two Jewish sisters given by their mother to a count and countess for protection against rising persecution of Jews in 1930s Eastern Europe. They are taken to Notth America where the reader follows their adult lives. The time and place changes through the book worked quite well and it was interesting to compare the lives of the sisters. I felt the ending was wrappe ...more
Susan Ruffo
Nov 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I picked up this book because I happened to meet Heather at my local bookstore. Her description of this book intrigued me, so I connected with my local library. What an engaging story. I couldn't put it down and read in two days. Heather's has an ability to draw the reader into her characters and explores all facets of the human condition. The underlying thread to the effects of war is haunting. Highly recommend this read.
Polly Krize
Apr 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

A well-written, poignant story about 2 Russian sisters, and the diverse way they handled a new life in Canada post-Bolshevik Russia. Anna is torn between handling the mental illness of her sister, Esther, and making a new life for herself. The many twists and turns in this novel are well done, making this one of my top reads for 2018.
Aletha Pagett
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A Fist Around The Heart captures your interest on the first page and maintains it until the last page.
Esther and Anna traverse lives impacted by the trauma inflicted upon Russian Jews. The book follows each sister's life in Manhattan and Winnipeg and the issues facing women in the early twentieth century. This book was received from Goodreads.
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Heather Chisvin is the daughter of Russian immigrants who moved to Winnipeg to avoid the pogroms of the early 20th century. She is a journalist, a radio and television documentary producer, an advertising copywriter, and a teacher at the Ontario College of Art and Design. A Fist Around the Heart is her first work of fiction. She lives in Port Hope, Ontario.