Title: The Girl They Left Behind
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: October 9th 2018
Where I Got It: My shelf (Netgalley)
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.
This book drew me in right away especially after learning this is partially based off a true story.
The story follows Natalia and both sets of her parents. We get to see a little glimpse of her biological family at the beginning. To save her and themselves, they drop her off at the orphanage. It was really rough reading this. I felt so bad for them and for the baby. Poor things. Natalia gets adopted by a well-off family who cannot have kids. We get to see Natalia grow up in a rough time period. They go from being run by the Nazis to run by the Communists. Going from one prison to another one.
I loved how the author blended in bits of truth among the fiction. It made it seem like a reality. I come from a parent who was put up for adoption and we would always make up stories about her biological parents. We got lucky and found out the truth recently, but thanks to the Nazis and Communists this author and her mom never got to find out the truth. So why not make your own truth? It worked well and I loved it.
This was really sad, but there was such hope. I certainly did enjoy the journey from page one.
The one and only thing I did not like was Victor. I wasn't a fan of the character and his role. He seemed slippery and sneaky and I didn't trust him. Still, don't even by the end.
I liked Natalia and her family. What a hard thing. Poor girl....poor everyone.
I highly recommend this book to all historical fiction lovers. It is a really sad, but interesting story. You can't help but want to know what will happen next. I felt so bad for everyone. What made this book a touch more special was the fact that this had splashes of real in it. I can really relate to this in so many ways. I'll give it 5 stars.