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A brave, heartrending memoir of family, love and longing in the turbulent era of Apartheid in South Africa.

During the terrifying years of Apartheid in South Africa, Shelley Davidow’s family was a crime. At a time when it was illegal for black and white people to live together, Shelley’s social activist parents took in Rosie, an abandoned black three-year-old. Rosie grew up as a beloved daughter and sister in a white household. Against the backdrop of racist laws and ever-present threats of violence, Shelley’s parents did all they could to provide a safe, happy home for their five children. But when Rosie was sixteen, devastating truths came to light, shattering the family’s understanding of the past.

In this haunting memoir, Shelley Davidow unravels the memories of her early life, searching for truth and reconciliation. Shadow Sisters leaves us with a deeper understanding of family love – but what if, sometimes, love is not enough?


Shadow Sisters is a powerful memoir of place: a young woman coming of age in a divided nation on the verge of great upheaval. For a time they are one story, held together by the vast South African landscape. Perceptive, tender, beautifully told.

Inga Simpson, author of Understory

Shadow Sisters takes us on a beautiful, heartrending, unflinching voyage to a South Africa we have seldom if ever seen in contemporary literature. Viewed through the lens of Davidow’s liberal white family both pre- and post-Apartheid, this South Africa is a beautiful and terrible place, haunted by ghosts of its past, tangled in a web of connections and disconnections that may never be unwound. Davidow sifts through memories like a mystery detective, seeking truth and, if possible, reconciliation, as she searches also for her place in the world. This is a lyrical, thought-provoking memoir, breathtaking in its honesty, one of the bravest, truest you will ever find.

Molly Gloss, author of The Hearts of Horses and The Jump-off Creek

In this brilliant memoir of a youth spent in South Africa during the terrifying years of Apartheid, Shelley Davidow distils the tragedies of a nation down to the relationships within her very home. It’s been a life indelibly marked by the violence of the era, yet lifted by the beauty of the vast continent and the enduring human spirit. This book left me stunned and somehow transformed.

Elizabeth McKenzie, author of The Portable Veblen

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Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback


    April 2, 2018


    RRP $29.95

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The Boy Behind the Curtain
Out of the Forest
When Breath Becomes Air
In Order To Live
The Year Everything Changed
The Motherhood
Miss Ex-Yugoslavia
There Is More
Lion: A Long Way Home
The First Casualty
The Sun Does Shine
The Language of Kindness
A Zero Waste Life