A sweeping family saga and love story that offers a vivid and unique portrayal of life in war-torn 1941 Bucharest and life behind the Iron Curtain during the Soviet Union occupation—perfect for fans of Lilac Girls and Sarah’s Key.
On a freezing night in January 1941, a little Jewish girl is found on the steps of an apartment building in Bucharest. With Romania recently allied with the Nazis, the Jewish population is in grave danger, undergoing increasingly violent persecution. The girl is placed in an orphanage and eventually adopted by a wealthy childless couple who name her Natalia. As she assimilates into her new life, she all but forgets the parents who were forced to leave her behind. They are even further from her mind when Romania falls under Soviet occupation.
Yet, as Natalia comes of age in a bleak and hopeless world, traces of her identity pierce the surface of her everyday life, leading gradually to a discovery that will change her destiny. She has a secret crush on Victor, an intense young man who as an impoverished student befriended her family long ago. Years later, when Natalia is in her early twenties and working at a warehouse packing fruit, she and Victor, now an important official in the Communist regime, cross paths again. This time they are fatefully drawn into a passionate affair despite the obstacles swirling around them and Victor’s dark secrets.
When Natalia is suddenly offered a one-time chance at freedom, Victor is determined to help her escape, even if it means losing her. Natalia must make an agonizing decision: remain in Bucharest with her beloved adoptive parents and the man she has come to love, or seize the chance to finally live life on her own terms, and to confront the painful enigma of her past.
Natalia was not yet four when the Bucharest Pogroms began, the killing of Jewish families in the streets. Natalia's parents are on the run when they make the heartbreaking decision that will keep both Natalia and themselves alive, they leave Talia on the steps of an apartment building while they escape to a friends attic and then Switzerland. Talia is quickly found and brought to an orphanage where she was adopted into the Goza family. Talia's wealthy adoptive parents, Despina and Anton give her everything she could hope for, they make it through the war only to have the Iron Curtain come crashing down on them. While the Goza's are doing their best to survive with the help of their friend Victor who works for the Party, Talia's birth parents are still searching for her and they might be the answer to Talia's survival once again.
The Girl They Left Behind is an astounding story of hope and courage based on the life of the author's mother. From the beginning when Talia's parents made the heartbreaking decision to leave her on the doorstep, I knew I had to find out the rest of her story. This book explored a part of World War II that I did not know a lot about including the Pogroms and life in Romania during the War. Talia's character showed amazing growth throughout the story, from a scared orphan to a woman taking risks for her survival. I could not imagine being either Talia's birth parents or adoptive parents and having to leave or send away their child for her own safety. I could also not imagine being Talia and knowing that two sets of parents sacrificed everything for my safety. More than anything, I was amazed that the author so very closely followed the story that her own mother had lived through, seeing the pictures at the end of the book really solidified the honesty of the story. Overall, a heartfelt account of remarkable people during World War II and the Soviet Occupation.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
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