Published: October 9, 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.
I accidentally redownloaded this book and I took it as a sign to re-read this gem. I first read this in 2018 when it first came out. I adored it then. And well...I still adore it now.
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 being run by the Communists. Going from one prison to another one.
This book is a blend of fiction and a real story. Which, I must applaud the author for doing a great job blending the two.
The author re-envisioned her mother's story since they knew nothing of her biological grandparents who had to leave her mother behind. It always breaks my heart when there is a huge mystery. I can understand that wonder and sadness. My mother was put up for adoption in the late 1950s and we had no idea the story until Ancestry.com. We did the DNA test and we were able to find her half-siblings and figure out what happened. That is pretty rare. Even rarer in the author's case. Her mother was put up for adoption during such a turbulent time and area.
But yes, this book has it all. All of the feels. Even after a second read, I found myself with some tears.
Now, I remember not liking Victor during my first read....but I ended up appreciating him more. Still not a huge fan, but he did what he did. He did sacrifice a lot for Natalia.
I def recommend this one. Even after all these years I still really adore this one.