Friday, August 13, 2021

They Went Left by Monica Hesse


I have read many, many, many books set during World War II. It's rare, though, to find one set just after the war ended; They Went Left captures the chaos and complete disintegration of society that was left in the wake of World War II. 

For three years, Zofia managed to survive in the Gross-Rosen concentration camp.  She knows that her parents are dead, so when the camp is liberated in 1945, her only thought is of reuniting with her younger brother, Abek. With the help of a Russian soldier, she makes her way back to the only house she and her family ever knew. In a jarring scene, she finds that everything is the same, but completely different. Her brother, though, is not there, so she sets off on foot to find him.

Zofia is something of an unreliable narrator, but Hesse's descriptive writing gently reveals the truth of the heartbreaking realities that Zofia and other displaced persons experienced.  Although this is a painful read, it is not without hope. They Went Left provides today's readers with a look at a unique time in history and for me, it was interesting to experience Zofia's uncertainty and fear as a reader in the midst of a pandemic. Historical fiction readers will find much to appreciate in this North Star YA Award nominee. 

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