They Went Left

Little, Brown. Apr. 2020. 384p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316490573.
Gr 9 Up–A heartbreaking and heartwarming story of survival, loss, and renewal. The year is 1945, and Zofia finds herself in a hospital after being liberated from the Gross-Rosen concentration camp in Poland. Suffering from memory loss in a hospital with other survivors, Zofia relies on the kindness of Dima, a Russian soldier, to get home and find her little brother, Abek. However, the home Zofia returns to is not one she recognizes. She quickly discovers that she needs to continue her search for Abek elsewhere. Alone, Zofia travels across borders to locate her brother; she doesn’t know what happened to him or where he ended up, but she will not give up hope that he is alive and looking for her. This book starts where many World War II fiction ends: liberation. Readers travel with Zofia as she struggles to piece her life back together and discover what a family looks like now. Hesse’s meticulous research of this moment in history creates an overwhelming sense of time and place. She intertwines historical fact with masterful storytelling that allows readers to embrace the characters and relate to them without forgetting the heaviness of the time period.
VERDICT Highly recommended as a first purchase for both public and school libraries. Sure to please a variety of readers; those interested in historical fiction, romance, and mystery will not be able to put this book down.

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