In the 1930s, Stalin’s activists marched through the Soviet Union, espousing the greatness of collective farming. It was the first step in creating a man-made famine that, in Ukraine, stole almost 4 million lives. Inspired by the history the world forgot, and the Russian government denies, Erin Litteken reimagines their story.
In 1929, Katya is 16 years old, surrounded by family and in love with the boy next door. When Stalin’s activists arrive in her village, it’s just a few, a little pressure to join the collective. But soon neighbors
disappear, those who speak out are never seen again and every new day is uncertain.
Resistance has a price, and as desperate hunger grips the countryside, survival seems more a dream than a possibility. But, even in the darkest times, love beckons.
Seventy years later, a young widow discovers her grandmother’s journal, one that will reveal the long-buried secrets of her family’s haunted past.
This is a story of the resilience of the human spirit, the love that sees us through our darkest hours and the true horror of what happened during the Holodomor.
May we never forget, lest history repeat itself.
A share of proceeds will be donated to DEC’s Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.
Erin Litteken is a debut novelist with a degree in history and a passion for research. At a young age, she was enthralled by stories of her family’s harrowing experiences in Ukraine before, during and after World War II. Her first historical fiction title, drawing on those experiences, will be published by Boldwood in June 2022. She lives in Illinois, USA with her husband and children.
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My thoughts: when I studied Russian history we briefly looked at the Holodomor, the horrific policy Stalin inflicted on the people of Ukraine. But we didn’t look at it in detail, I’m glad in a way because it is genuinely harrowing. Erin Litteken is of Ukrainian descent and her family members lived through those terrible years. She weaves their experiences into this moving and powerful novel.
As her Bobby develops dementia and slips back in time in her mind, grieving widow Cassie moves back in to her grandmother’s house to take care of her and her young daughter Birdie, who hasn’t spoken since a terrible accident killed her father. She’s given Bobby’s journals to translate and transcribe from Ukrainian, with the help of neighbour Nick, revealing the terrible things Bobby and her family went through under Soviet rule.
Parts of the book are heartbreakingly sad, Katya loses so many of her family and friends to hunger and gulags in Siberia. She has to do so much to survive, despite her own pain. As Cassie and Nick read the journal they discover a story of hope amid the terror and of love amid so much loss.
As Ukraine endures another Russian reign of terror in 2022, this book feels incredibly timely and serves as a reminder of the strength of the human spirit. Some of the proceeds from the purchase are to go to the DEC’s Ukraine appeal to help the descendants of those who survived the Holodomor survive once more.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.