Smuggled: A Novel

Smuggled: A Novel

by Christina Shea
     
 

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Sweeping from post–WWII rural Romania to the cosmopolitan Budapest of 1990, Christina Shea’s Smuggled is the story of Eva Farkas, who loses her identity, quite literally, as a young child when she is smuggled in a flour sack across the Hungarian border to escape the Nazis.

Five-year-old Eva is trafficked from Hungary to Romania at the end of the

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Overview

Sweeping from post–WWII rural Romania to the cosmopolitan Budapest of 1990, Christina Shea’s Smuggled is the story of Eva Farkas, who loses her identity, quite literally, as a young child when she is smuggled in a flour sack across the Hungarian border to escape the Nazis.

Five-year-old Eva is trafficked from Hungary to Romania at the end of the war, arriving in the fictional border town of Crisu, given the name Anca Balaj by her aunt and uncle and instructed never to speak another word of Hungarian again. “Eva is dead,” she is told. As the years pass, Anca proves an unquenchable spirit, with a lust for life even when political forces threaten to derail her at every turn. Time is layered in this quest for self, culminating in the end of the Iron Curtain and Anca’s reclaiming of the name her mother gave her. When Eva returns to Hungary in 1990, a country changing as fast as the price of bread, she meets Martin, an American teacher, and Eva’s lifelong search for family and identity comes full circle as her cross-cultural relationship with Martin deepens through their endeavor to rescue the boy downstairs from abuse.

An intimate look at the effects of history on an individual life, Smuggled is a raw and fearless account of transformation, and a viscerally reflective tale about the basic need for love without claims.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Shea's second novel (after Moira's Crossing) begins strongly enough in 1943, when precocious five-year-old Éva is smuggled out of Hungary. To save Éva's life, her Jewish mother and gentile father drug her, tie her into a flour sack, and ship her by train to Romania. There, her father's sister takes her in, rechristening her Anca Balaj and speaking to her only in Romanian. Shea then forces Anca into situations to make political points about Ceausescu, communism, loyalty, and brutality. The once-willful child becomes a passive adult, and the story charges ahead, dragging her along with it. Emphasizing Éva/Anca's role as a victim is a carousel of unsavory lovers, including an abusive coach who breaks her jaw and a concentration camp survivor who supplements his dentist's income with "post-mortem extractions" of golden teeth. Though Shea writes vividly and has clearly done her homework, the story serves history better than fiction. Éva's eventual return to Hungary is marked by overwrought imagery and labored plotting, the opposite of what is needed: a glimpse into this woman's soul. (July)
Library Journal
In the 20th century, Eastern Europe was ravaged by Nazism and then communism, a tragic history that forms the backdrop of Shea's quiet second novel (after Moira's Crossing). When Éva Farkas is five years old, she is smuggled out of Hungary in a flour sack by her desperate parents, who know what lies in store for them as Jews when the Germans invade during World War II. Éva lives in Romania with her father's gruff sister and brother-in-law, who rename her Anca Balaj; she must forget her past and speak only Romanian. As the war ends and a new set of oppressors impose their rule, Anca suffers smaller sorrows, including an attack ending the Ping-Pong career that promised something better. Always, she aches for escape, but only with the fall of communism can she again become Éva and return to Hungary to claim her legacy. VERDICT Shea is less intent on showing totalitarianism's horrors than its capacity to grind down the soul. At times too matter-of-fact, her story nevertheless delivers a sure sense of that grinding and pulls itself up with a luminous ending that will please most readers.—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
Kirkus Reviews

A novel about identity set over the course of four decades, from the author ofMoira's Crossing(2000).

In 1943, on a train in Hungary, 5-year-old Éva, daughter of Eszter and György, slips into a flour sack. She steps out in Romania as Anca, her parents now Auntie Kati and Uncle Ilie. Had she stayed in Hungary, she surely would have died during World War II; Eszter dies on her way to Auschwitz and György by his own hand, of a broken heart. Shea does an excellent job of capturing the individuality at the heart of a war that most readers know only from textbook summaries. Kati handles her new charge with a combination of distance and nurturing. The scenes with Miss Pharmacist, Anca's first friend and her first real betrayer in Romania, add complexity to the adult world without compromising the novel's focus on young Anca. In her new home in Romania, she pushes back against her name change, "such an ugly name—like glass breaking," but we also see her start to mature. Anca goes on to lead an intense life, maintaining her secret identity for half a century while meeting others who also carry secrets sprung from the changing times: another secret Jew, a closeted homosexual, a back-alley abortion doctor, a fetishist, a power-abusing coach in the burgeoning European table tennis world. Her favorite childhood story is about a prideful princess and a resourceful, self-aware swineherd. Throughout these pages, she becomes both.

A satisfying read.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802170866
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
07/05/2011
Edition description:
Original
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

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