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The girl they left behind
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A sweeping family saga and love story that offers a vivid and unique portrayal of life in war-torn 1941 Bucharest and life behind the Iron Curtain during the Soviet Union occupation--perfect for fans of Lilac Girls and Sarah's Key .

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.
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Booklist Review
In 1941, a desperate Jewish couple leaves their three-year-old daughter on a doorstep in Bucharest in the hope that someone will take her in until they can return for her. The little girl ends up in an orphanage and is adopted by Anton and Despina Goza, who name her Natalia. She grows up in cultured and comfortable circumstances, despite wartime deprivations, and not even her accidental discovery that her real parents are still alive diminishes the love she feels for the Gozas. Life hardly returns to normal after the Communist takeover following the war; in fact, the Gozas undergo severe hardships as members of the bourgeoisie and therefore "class enemies." Aid comes from Victor, a young student Anton once took under his wing and who has since risen high in the ranks of the new regime. Despite some clunky dialogue and exposition, the novel, which Veletzos based on her mother's life, is worth reading for its Romanian setting, and questions regarding Natalia's real parents and whether she will ever be reunited with them add an element of suspense.--Mary Ellen Quinn Copyright 2018 Booklist
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