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Reviewed by Pikasho Deka for Readers' Favorite
The Girl in the White Cape is a whimsical fantasy novel by Barbara Sapienza. Raised by Father Al as an orphan, fifteen-year-old Elena grew up living in the attic room of the Russian Church, Our Lady of Sorrow, in San Francisco. Unlike other teenagers her age, Elena doesn't go to school. First, she travels to the eccentric Baba Vera's house, where Elena must keep up with her wacky demands, navigating life's challenges with the support of her ever-reliable doll, Kukla. After the driver, Frank Hudson, brings a mysterious woman named Anya into Elena's life, he realizes that he must protect her from Anya. But Elena finds a way to confront Anya and make her disappear herself. Soon, she inherits Baba Vera's house, and now that she has found her freedom, Elena must finally venture out into the outside world.
Soaked in magical realism and Russian folklore, The Girl in the White Cape is a surreal fantasy tale that transports you out of this world. Barbara Sapienza weaves a captivating yarn incorporating dream-like sequences and a tinge of supernatural elements, which enhance the story, making it all the more riveting to read. At times, Elena's story does feel like a fairy tale. The characters are complex, with layers of depth underneath their outward personas. Frank eventually realizes that instead of protecting Elena, he needs to learn something from her, which is a pivotal moment in the story. Overall, this is a book for fantasy aficionados who love fairy-tale endings.