In January 1941, as a pogrom descends upon the Jews of Bucharest, Romania, a fleeing Jewish couple must make a horrifying decision: leave their 3-year-old daughter behind or risk all of their lives at the hands of the Iron Guard. Their daughter survives, and her life arcs through some of the most devastating events of Eastern Europe.
Soon adopted into a wealthy Christian family, the child is renamed Natalia and raised by loving parents, Despina and Anton Goza. After four heart-wrenching miscarriages, Despina is eager to shower Natalia with love, drawing the traumatized girl out of her shell. Anton, the owner of several successful stationery stores, dotes on Despina and Natalia, even buying Natalia a piano and engaging a teacher for the talented pupil. Although politically opposed to fascism, the Gozas’ wealth shelters them from the atrocities visited daily upon their city’s Jewish population. Meanwhile, Natalia’s birthparents have been hiding in the attic of Despina’s cousin, who helps them escape the country, yet from afar, they try to help their daughter. From the pogroms and bombings to the Soviet occupation and the fall of the Iron Curtain, debut novelist Veletzos deftly threads historical events through Natalia’s life story as she survives the fracturing of her biological family, the destruction of her country, the stifling of her education, and cultural isolation from the rest of the world. As Natalia navigates a swiftly changing landscape, her adoptive father befriends Victor, a political revolutionary, who rises in the ranks of the Communist regime. In their times of need, it will be Victor to whom the Gozas turn again and again. But can he be trusted to rescue the fallen bourgeois family? Above all, can he be trusted with Natalia’s heart? And will Natalia ever find her parents again?
Never flinching from the bleak, this sweeping historical romance pieces together hope from the ruins.