McCrina does a phenomenal job drawing focus to a portion of history rarely written about in WWII fiction, the seldom discussed topic of the political struggle between Poland, Ukraine, and the Soviets. The writing is heartbreakingly beautiful and every point of view is honest, heartfelt, and valued. I found myself on everybody’s “side”, so to speak, which I took as an indicator that this is a well researched and well loved topic.
The characters play their parts to perfection, and in the end I found myself loving each one of them for some reason or another. Maria is such a strong young woman, older than her years because of imprisonment, and as a reader, you want nothing more than for her to get what she wants. The exact same can be said for Kostya. A young man desperate to save his family, he will do anything and go anywhere to ensure their safety. McCrina does an amazing job capturing their voices and you can truly feel their rage, their despair, and most importantly their hope, through her wonderful writing. Even the supporting characters are complex and deeply thought out.
If you’re leary of reading this book because it’s technically targeted as a “Young Adult” story, stop. You’re denying yourself the pleasure of a damn good book. I found myself laughing and tearing up, raging and cheering, and exceedingly grateful to have been introduced to this portion of history via this book.
This is an incredible story rooted in historical truths we don’t discuss as often as we should. This is a story of willpower and hope, of how far people will go to protect each other, and what it means to come together in humanity, even if it means holding hands with someone you once thought your enemy.