It is a surprisingly in depth look at how we change, how people can adapt and react. One of the sisters, Luzia, was badly hurt when she fell from a tree in her childhood and her elbow became locked, resulting in taunts and bullying for most of her life. She escapes the village by joining--or rather, being carried along with--the cangaceiros, the bandits and outlaws of the caatinga, the 'backlands' of Brazil. Luzia's older sister, Emilia (her name is spelled wrong; I can't add accents here) sees her life in the tiny village as a trap, and willingly follows Degas, one of the upper class, out of the town as a wife. She finds out how precarious her position is in the catty society of Recife. It's about women suffrage, about how easily hatred and bitterness can slip into someone's character. It kept making me flip flop, too--one minute, I hated Degas's guts, and the next, I understand what he must have been going through and sympathized.
I like it, though it took me a long time to get hooked onto the book. I especially liked how the author made Luzia not a perfect character, but instead forced her to become steadily harsher, bitter--and still keep me with her. It is also a look at society between the wars from another country. The caatinga is described
In all, I think this would be a 9/10 book, and recommended for anyone who isn't--disturbed--by violence and brutality--and who likes thick books (this is 641 pages). Otherwise, if you enjoy contemporary (is 1930's contemporary? I don't know) with a deeper theme, this is great. You can choose to enjoy the story or dig through it if you want: that's the nice thing about this story.