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We Were the Lucky Ones
     

We Were the Lucky Ones

4.8 20
by Georgia Hunter
 

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Inspired by the incredible true story of one Jewish family separated at the start of World War II, determined to survive—and to reunite—We Were the Lucky Ones is a sweeping novel spanning six years and five continents and a tribute to the triumph of hope and love against all odds
 
“Love in the face of global

Overview

Inspired by the incredible true story of one Jewish family separated at the start of World War II, determined to survive—and to reunite—We Were the Lucky Ones is a sweeping novel spanning six years and five continents and a tribute to the triumph of hope and love against all odds
 
“Love in the face of global adversity? It couldn't be more timely.”Glamour
 
It is the spring of 1939 and three generations of the Kurc family are doing their best to live normal lives, even as the shadow of war grows closer. The talk around the family Seder table is of new babies and budding romance, not of the increasing hardships threatening Jews in their hometown of Radom, Poland. But soon the horrors overtaking Europe will become inescapable and the Kurcs will be flung to the far corners of the world, each desperately trying to navigate his or her own path to safety.
 
As one sibling is forced into exile, another attempts to flee the continent, while others struggle to escape certain death, either by working grueling hours on empty stomachs in the factories of the ghetto or by hiding as gentiles in plain sight. Driven by an unwavering will to survive and by the fear that they may never see one another again, the Kurcs must rely on hope, ingenuity, and inner strength to persevere.
 
An extraordinary, propulsive novel, We Were the Lucky Ones demonstrates how in the face of the twentieth century’s darkest moment, the human spirit can endure and even thrive.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
12/05/2016
Debut author Hunter excavates the remarkable history of her own family in this chronicle, which follows the journeys of a Polish Jewish family during the Holocaust. The 1939 German invasion of Poland sunders the Kurc family. Aging parents Sol and Nechuma stay in their home of Radom, along with their adult daughters Halina and Mila. Their sons Genek and Jakob join the Polish army; a third son, Addy, is stuck in France, soon to be conscripted. During the course of the war, the Kurcs are flung to distant points on the globe, from Brazil to Siberia. They work for the underground, fight battles in Italy, and are imprisoned in gulags. They stage daring escapes from ghettos, hide in plain sight in Polish cities, and, always, yearn for the days when their family was whole. V-day finds some of the Kurcs together, but the celebration is empty; they are still sundered, mourning, and directionless. The Kurc family’s final triumph is not tied to the defeat of the Nazis, but to the family’s survival and reunion against impossible odds. However, this is not a saga with a jubilant Hollywood ending. The Kurc family’s survival is often due to nothing more than desperate luck. Hunter sidesteps hollow sentimentality and nihilism, revealing instead the beautiful complexity and ambiguity of life in this extraordinarily moving tale. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
“[A] gripping and moving story.”
—Bustle, “15 New Authors You’re Going To Be Obsessed With This Year”
 
“[Georgia Hunter is] just as courageous as the characters her writing will never let us forget.”
—Harper’s Bazaar

“Love in the face of global adversity? It couldn't be more timely.”
—Glamour, “Best Books to Read in 2017”

“Turning history into fiction can be tricky, especially when using real names and details. Hunter finesses the challenge. Her novel brings the Kurcs to life in heart-pounding detail, from passionate young love and beloved traditions to narrow escapes, heartbreaking choices, starvation, imprisonment and torture. We come to care deeply about the fate of each of these resourceful, determined characters.”
—The Jewish Voice

“The story that so grippingly comes across in the pages of We Were the Lucky Ones isn't strictly fiction—the characters and events that inhabit this Holocaust survival story are based on her family's own history.”
—Newsweek

“[A] must-read.”
—New York Post

“[A] remarkable history . . . Hunter sidesteps hollow sentimentality and nihilism, revealing instead the beautiful complexity and ambiguity of life in this extraordinarily moving tale.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Reading Georgia Hunter’s We Were the Lucky Ones is like being swung heart first into history. Her engrossing and deeply affecting account of how the Kurc family survives the Holocaust, against every possible odd, will leave you breathless. But the true wonder of the book is how convincingly Hunter inhabits these characters, each modeled after her own family members. This is their story Hunter is telling so beautifully and profoundly, and ours as well. A brave and mesmerizing debut, and a truly tremendous accomplishment.”
—Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun

“We Were the Lucky Ones is the most gripping novel I've read in years.  Georgia Hunter pulled me into another world, vivid, horrifying, astonishing, and heartbreaking, and I walked with the Kurc family as they traversed the edges of life and death.”
—Lauren Belfer, New York Times bestselling author of And After the Fire, A Fierce Radiance, and City of Light.

“Georgia Hunter’s We Were the Lucky Ones is a skillfully woven reimagining of her own family’s struggle for survival during World War II. Hunter takes us from the Polish ghetto to Siberia to Brazil, all with spectacular historical detail. This emotionally resonant, gripping portrait of the war is filled with beautifully drawn and wonderfully heroic characters I won’t soon forget.”
—Jillian Cantor, author of Margot and The Hours Count

“In her debut novel We Were the Lucky Ones, Georgia Hunter has crafted her own family history into a sprawling, yet still intimate portrait of those swept up in the devastation of war and scattered to the winds.  It is an astonishing saga of hope, of luck, of destruction, and most remarkably of love, made all the more astonishing because of the true story at its core.”
—David R. Gillham, New York Times bestselling author of City of Women

“Elegantly executed and always clear, Hunter evokes pre-war Poland with loving detail, clearly showing what was left behind and lost.  . . . We Were the Lucky Ones is a compelling read, notable for Hunter’s clear portraits of her plucky, resilient family, and for her ability to build suspense and investment without emotional manipulation.”
—Courtney Naliboff, ReformJudaism.org

Library Journal
12/01/2016
First-time novelist Hunter got the idea for this book in conversations with her grandmother after unearthing family history of which she'd been ignorant. Casting her tale in fictional form, she traces the fortunes of the large Kurc family from their home in Radom, Poland, just before World War II until they all make it safely to the New World via various paths during and after war's end. Their experiences include son Addy's fraught journey as a student in prewar Paris to Brazil, where he sits out the conflict. Another brother and his wife are exiled to Siberia by Soviet forces until they find their way west again. One of their sisters saves herself and her daughter from being shot in a field with a trainload of other Jews. The book's title almost gives away too much, and one wonders whether the story would have had more resonance if Hunter had written a factual account. Though the author relates some cliff-hanging episodes, their impact is marred by uninspired dialog and commentary: "Bella was still a wreck," "Her grief is larger than words." And despite the wide-ranging encounters, we learn nothing new about the Holocaust. VERDICT This nonetheless engrossing read is best recommended for those who enjoy fiction set during World War II and sprawling family sagas. [See Prepub Alert, 8/26/16.]—Edward Cone, New York
Kirkus Reviews
2016-11-22
Hunter's debut novel tracks the experiences of her family members during the Holocaust.Sol and Nechuma Kurc, wealthy, cultured Jews in Radom, Poland, are successful shop owners; they and their grown children live a comfortable lifestyle. But that lifestyle is no protection against the onslaught of the Holocaust, which eventually scatters the members of the Kurc family among several continents. Genek, the oldest son, is exiled with his wife to a Siberian gulag. Halina, youngest of all the children, works to protect her family alongside her resistance-fighter husband. Addy, middle child, a composer and engineer before the war breaks out, leaves Europe on one of the last passenger ships, ending up thousands of miles away. Then, too, there are Mila and Felicia, Jakob and Bella, each with their own share of struggles—pain endured, horrors witnessed. Hunter conducted extensive research after learning that her grandfather (Addy in the book) survived the Holocaust. The research shows: her novel is thorough and precise in its details. It's less precise in its language, however, which frequently relies on cliché. "You'll get only one shot at this," Halina thinks, enacting a plan to save her husband. "Don't botch it." Later, Genek, confronting a routine bit of paperwork, must decide whether or not to hide his Jewishness. "That form is a deal breaker," he tells himself. "It's life and death." And: "They are low, it seems, on good fortune. And something tells him they'll need it." Worse than these stale phrases, though, are the moments when Hunter's writing is entirely inadequate for the subject matter at hand. Genek, describing the gulag, calls the nearest town "a total shitscape." This is a low point for Hunter's writing; elsewhere in the novel, it's stronger. Still, the characters remain flat and unknowable, while the novel itself is predictable. At this point, more than half a century's worth of fiction and film has been inspired by the Holocaust—a weighty and imposing tradition. Hunter, it seems, hasn't been able to break free from her dependence on it. Too beholden to sentimentality and cliché, this novel fails to establish a uniquely realized perspective.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780399563089
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/14/2017
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
12,206
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

Jakob and Bella

Lvov, Soviet-Occupied Poland ~ October 24, 1939

Bella steps carefully so as not to clip the backs of Anna’s heels. The sisters move slowly, deliberately, talking in whispers. It’s nine in the evening, and the streets are empty. There isn’t a curfew in Lvov as there is in Radom, but the blackout is still in effect, and with the street lamps extinguished, it’s nearly impossible to see.
 
“I can’t believe we didn’t bring a flashlight,” Bella whispers.
 
“I walked the route earlier today,” Anna says. “Just stay close, I know where I’m going.”
 
Bella smiles. Slinking through backstreets in the pale blue light of the moon reminds her of the nights she and Jakob used to tiptoe at two in the morning from their apartments to make love in the park under the chestnut trees.

“It’s just here,” Anna whispers.

They climb a small flight of stairs, entering the house through a side door. Inside, it’s even darker than it is on the street.

“Stay here for a moment while I light a match,” Anna says, rummaging through her handbag.

“Yes, ma’am,” Bella says, laughing. All her life it’s been she who bosses Anna about, not the other way around. Anna is the baby, the family’s sweetheart. But Bella knows that behind the pretty face and quiet façade, her sister is whip smart, capable of anything she sets her mind to.

Despite being two years younger, Anna was the first to marry. She and her husband, Daniel, live just down the street from Bella and Jakob in Lvov—a reality that has softened Bella’s pain at leaving her parents behind. The sisters see each other often and talk frequently about how to convince their parents to make the move to Lvov. But in her letters, Gustava insists that she and Henry are getting by on their own in Radom. Your father’s dentistry is still bringing a bit of income, she wrote in her last correspondence. He’s been treating the Germans. It doesn’t make sense for us to move, not yet at least. Just promise to visit when you can, and to write often.

“How on earth did you find this place?” Bella asks. She’d been given no address, just told to follow. They’d snaked through so many narrow back alleys on their way, she’d lost her sense of direction.

“Adam found it,” Anna says, striking a match over and over without a spark. “Through the Underground,” she adds. “Apparently they’ve used it before, as a sort of safe house. It’s abandoned, so we shouldn’t have any surprise visitors.”  

Finally, a match  takes, emitting a cloud of sharp-smelling sulphur and an amber halo of light.

“Adam said he left a candle by the faucet,” she mutters, shuffling toward the sink, a hand cupped over the flame. Adam had found the rabbi, too, which Bella knew was no easy task. When Lvov fell, the Soviets stripped the city’s rabbis of their titles and banned them from practicing; those who were unable to find new jobs went into hiding. Yoffe was the only rabbi Adam could find, he said, who wasn’t afraid to officiate a marriage ceremony, under the condition that the wedding take place in secrecy.

In the match’s faint glow, the room begins to take shape. Bella looks around, at the shadow of a kettle resting on a stove top, a bowl of wooden spoons silhouetted on the counter, a blackout curtain hanging in a window over the sink. Whoever lived here left in a hurry, it seems. “It’s incredibly kind of Adam to do this for us,” Bella says, more to herself than to her sister. She’d met Adam a year ago, when he leased a room in the Kurcs’ apartment. Mostly she knew him as Halina’s boyfriend, calm and cool and rather quiet—oftentimes his voice was barely heard around the dinner table. But since arriving in Lvov, Adam has surprised Bella with his ability to orchestrate the impossible: handcrafting false identification cards for the family. As far as the Russians know, Adam works at an orchard outside the city, harvesting apples—but in the Underground, Adam has become a prized counterfeiter. By now, hundreds of Jews have pocketed his IDs, which he produces with such a meticulous hand, Bella would swear they are real.
 
She’d asked him once how he was able to make them look so authentic.

“They are authentic.  The stamps, at least,” he’d said, explaining how he’d discovered that he could remove official government stamps from existing IDs with a peeled, just-boiled egg. “I lift the original when the egg is still hot,” Adam said, “then roll the egg over the new ID. Don’t ask why, but it works.”

“Found it!” Darkness envelops them once again as Anna fumbles for another match. A moment later, the candle is lit.

Bella removes her coat, lays it over the back of a chair.

“Cold  in here,”  Anna whispers. “Sorry.” Carrying the candle, she makes her way from the sink to stand beside Bella.

“It’s  okay.”  Bella suppresses a shiver. “Is  Jakob already here? And Genek? Herta? It’s so quiet.”

“Everyone’s here. Getting settled in the foyer, I imagine.”

“So I’m not to be married in the kitchen?” Bella laughs and then sighs, realizing that for as many times as she’d told herself she’d marry Jakob anywhere, the idea of wedding him here, in the shadowy, ghostlike home of a family she’ll never know, was beginning to make her feel uneasy.

“Please. You’ve far too much class for a kitchen wedding.”

Bella smiles. “I didn’t think I’d be nervous.”

“It’s your wedding day—of course you’re nervous!”

The words reverberate through her and Bella goes still. “I wish Mother and Father could be here,” she says finally, and as she hears herself, her eyes well up with tears. She and Jakob had talked about waiting until the war was over to marry, so they could hold a more traditional ceremony in Radom with their families. But there was no telling when the war would end. They’d waited long enough, they decided. The Tatars and the Kurcs had both given their blessings from Radom. They’d practically begged Jakob and Bella to marry. Still, Bella hates that her parents can’t be with her—hates that, despite how happy she is now that she’s with Jakob, she’s also guilty for it. Is it right, she wonders, to celebrate while her country is at war? While her parents are alone in Radom—her parents, who, for all of her life, have given her so much when they had so little? Bella’s memory flashes to the day when she and Anna returned home from school to find their father in the living room with a scruffy-looking dog at his feet. The pup was a gift, their father told them, from one of his patients who had fallen on hard times and was unable to pay to have a tooth extracted. Bella and Anna, who had begged for a dog since they were toddlers, had shrieked with joy and rushed to hug their father, who wrapped his arms around them, laughing as the dog nipped playfully at their ankles.

Anna squeezes her hand. “I know,” she says, “I wish they could be here, too. But they want this so badly for you. You mustn’t worry about them. Not tonight.”

Bella nods. “It’s just so far from what I imagined,” she whispers.

“I know,” Anna says again, her voice soft.

When they were teenagers, Bella and Anna would lie in bed and talk for hours, spinning stories of their wedding days. At the time, Bella could see it perfectly: the sweet-smelling bouquet of white roses her mother would arrange for her to carry; the smile on her father’s face as he lifted her veil to kiss her forehead beneath the chuppah; the thrill of slipping a ring over Jakob’s index finger, a symbol of their love that he would carry with him for the remainder of his lifetime. Her wedding, had it been in Radom, would have been far from lavish, this she knows. It would have been simple. Beautiful. What it would not have been was a secret ceremony, held in the cold carcass of an abandoned, blacked-out house 500 kilometers from her parents. But, Bella reminds herself, she’d chosen to come to Lvov, after all. She and Jakob had decided together to marry here. Her sister is right; her parents have wanted this for her for years. She should focus on what she has, not what she doesn’t—on this night, especially.

“No one could have predicted this,” Anna adds. “But just think,” she says, her voice growing more chipper, “the next time you see Mama i Tata, you will be a married woman! Hard to believe, isn’t it?”

Bella smiles, willing away her tears. “It is, in a way,” she whispers, thinking about her father’s letter, which had arrived two days ago. In it, Henry described how overjoyed he and Gustava were upon learning of her intent to marry. We love you so much, dear Bella. Your Jakob is a good soul, that boy, with a fine family. We will celebrate, all of us, when we are together again. Rather than show the letter to Jakob right away, Bella had slipped it under her pillow and decided she’d let him read it later that evening, once they’d returned to their apartment, a married couple.

Sucking in her stomach, Bella runs her hands along the lace bodice of her dress. “I’m so happy it fits,” she says, exhaling. “It’s just as beautiful as I remember it.”

When Anna became engaged to Daniel, their mother, knowing that they couldn’t afford the kind of dress Anna would want from a dressmaker, decided to make a gown herself. She, Bella, and Anna had scoured the pages of McCall’s and Harper’s Bazaar for the designs they liked. When Anna finally picked her favorite—inspired by film stills of Barbara Stanwyck—the Tatar women spent an entire afternoon at Nechuma’s fabric shop, poring over bolts of various satins, silks, and laces, marveling over how luxurious each felt as they rubbed it between their fingers. Nechuma gave them the materials they finally selected at cost, and it took Gustava nearly a month to finish the gown—a V-neck, with a white lace-trimmed bodice, long gathered Gibson sleeves, buttons down the back, a bell-shaped skirt that fell just to the floor, and a powder-white satin sash gathered at her hips. Delighted, Anna deemed it a masterpiece. Bella had secretly hoped she’d get to wear it someday.

“I’m just happy I brought it,” Anna says. “I almost left it with Mother, but I couldn’t bear to part with it. Oh, Bella.” Anna stands back to take her in. “You look so beautiful! Come,” she says, adjusting the gold brooch hanging around Bella’s neck so it sits perfectly centered in the hollow between her collarbones, “before I cry. Are you ready?”

“Almost.” Bella fishes a metal tube from her coat pocket. She removes the lid, then swivels the bottom a half turn and applies a few dabs of Peppercorn Red lipstick carefully to her lips, wishing she had a mirror. “I’m glad you brought this, too,” she says, rubbing her lips together before dropping the tube back into her pocket. “And that you were willing to share,” she adds. When lipstick was pulled from the market—the army had better use for petroleum and castor oil—most women they knew clung fiercely to what was left of their supplies.

“Of course,” Anna says. “So—gotowa?

“Ready.”

Carrying the candle in one hand, Anna guides Bella gently through a doorway.

The foyer is dimly illuminated by two small votives propped on the staircase balusters. Jakob stands at the foot of the stairs. At first, all Bella can make out of him is his silhouette—his narrow torso, the gentle slope of his shoulders.

“We’ll save this one for later,” Anna says, snuffing out her candle. She kisses Bella on the cheek. “I love you,” she says, beaming, and then makes her way to greet the others. Bella can’t see them, but she can hear whispers: Och, jaka pie, kna! Beautiful!

A second silhouette stands motionless beside her groom, the candlelight catching the frizz of a long, silver beard. It must be the rabbi, Bella realizes. She steps into the flickering glow of the votives, and as she slides her elbow through Jakob’s, she feels the tightness between her ribs disappear. She isn’t nervous anymore, or cold. She’s floating.

Jakob’s eyes are wet when they meet hers. In her sister’s ivory kitten heels, she’s nearly as tall as he. He plants a kiss on her cheek.

“Hello, sunshine,” he says, smiling.

“Hi,” Bella replies, grinning. One of the onlookers chuckles.

The rabbi extends a hand. His face is a maze of wrinkles. He must be in his eighties, Bella guesses. “I am Rabbi Yoffe,” he says. His voice, like his beard, is rough around the edges.

“Pleasure,” Bella says, taking his hand and dipping her chin. His fingers feel frail and knotted between hers, like a cluster of twigs. “Thank you for this,” she says, knowing what a risk he’d taken to be there.

Yoffe clears his throat. “Well. Shall we get started?” Jakob and Bella nod.

Yacub,” Yoffe begins, “repeat after me.”
 
Jakob does his best not to bungle Rabbi Yoffe’s words, but it’s difficult, partly because his Hebrew is rudimentary, but mostly because he’s too distracted by his bride to keep a thought in his mind for more than a few seconds. She is spectacular in her gown. But it’s not the dress he’s taken by. He’s never seen her skin so smooth, her eyes so bright, her smile, even in the shadows, such a perfect, radiant cupid’s bow. Against the ebony backdrop of the abandoned house, ensconced in the golden glimmer of candlelight, she appears angelic. He can’t take his eyes off her. And so he stumbles through his prayers, thinking not about his words but about the image of his soon-to-be wife before him, memorizing her every curve, wishing he could snap a photo so he could show her later on just how beautiful she looked.
 
Yoffe pulls a handkerchief from his breast pocket, places it over Bella’s head. “Walk seven times,” he instructs, drawing an imaginary circle on the floor with his index finger “around Yacub.” Bella extracts her elbow from Jakob’s and obeys, her heels clicking softly on the wooden floorboards as she walks a circle, and then two. Each time she passes in front of him, Jakob whispers, “You are exquisite.” And each time, Bella blushes. When she has returned to Jakob’s side, Yoffe offers a short prayer and reaches again into his pocket, this time removing a cloth napkin, folded in two. He opens it, revealing a small light bulb with a broken filament—a functioning light is too precious to break now.

“Don’t worry, it no longer works,” he says, wrapping up the bulb and bending slowly to place it at their feet. Something creaks and Jakob wonders whether it’s the floorboards or one of the rabbi’s joints. “In the midst of this happy occasion,” Yoffe says, righting himself, “we should not forget how fragile life truly is. The breaking of glass—a symbol of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, of man’s short life on earth.” He motions to Jakob, and then to the floor. Jakob brings a foot down gently on the napkin, resisting the urge to stomp for fear that someone might hear.

“Mazel tov!” the others cry softly from the shadows, also straining to subdue their cheers. Jakob takes Bella’s hands, weaving his fingers between hers.

“Before we finish,” Yoffe says, pausing to look from Jakob to Bella, “I would like to add that, even in the darkness, I see your love. Inside, you are full, and through your eyes, it shines.” Jakob tightens his grip on Bella’s hand. The rabbi smiles, revealing two missing teeth, then breaks into song as he recites a final blessing:
 
You are blessed, Lord our God, the sovereign of the world, who created joy and celebration, bridegroom and bride, rejoicing, jubilation, pleasure and delight,
love and brotherhood, peace and friendship. . . .
 
The others sing along, clapping softly as Jakob and Bella seal the ceremony with a kiss.

“My wife,” Jakob says, his gaze dancing across Bella’s face. The word feels new and wonderful on his lips. He steals a second kiss.
 
“My husband.

Hand in hand, they turn to greet their guests, who emerge from the shadows of the foyer to embrace the newlyweds.

A few minutes later, the group is assembled in the dining room for a makeshift dinner, a meal smuggled in under their coats. It’s nothing fancy, but a treat, nonetheless—horsemeat burgers, boiled potatoes, and homemade beer.

Genek clinks a fork against a borrowed glass and clears his throat. “To Pan i Pani Kurc!” he says, his glass lifted. “Mazel tov!”

“Mazel tov!” the others echo.

“And it only took nine years!” Genek adds, grinning. Beside him, Herta laughs. “But seriously. To my little brother, and to his ravishing bride, who we’ve all adored since the day we met—may your love be everlasting. L’chaim!

L’chaim,” the others repeat in unison.

Jakob raises his glass, smiling at Genek, and wishing as he often does that he’d proposed sooner. Had he asked for Bella’s hand a year ago, they would have celebrated with a proper wedding—with parents, siblings, aunts, and uncles by their sides. They’d have danced to Popławski, sipped champagne from tall flutes, and gorged on gingerbread cake. The night, no doubt, would have wrapped with Addy, Halina, and Mila taking turns at the keys of a piano, serenading their guests with a jazz tune, a Chopin nocturne. He glances at Bella. They’d agreed it was the right thing, to marry here in Lvov, and even though she never said it, he knows she must feel a similar longing—for the wedding they thought they’d have. The wedding she deserved. Let it go, Jakob tells himself, pushing aside the familiar stitch of regret.

Around the table, glasses touch rims, their cylindrical bottoms catching the candlelight as bride and groom and guests sip their beer. Bella coughs and covers her mouth, her eyebrows arched, and Jakob laughs. It’s been months since they’ve had a drink, and the ale is harsh.

“Potent!” Genek offers, his dimples carving shadows in his cheeks. “We’ll all be drunk before we know it.”

“I think I might already be drunk,” Anna cries from the far end of the table.

As the others laugh, Jakob turns, rests his hand on Bella’s knee beneath the table. “Your ring is waiting for you in Radom,” he whispers. “I’m sorry I didn’t give it to you sooner. I was waiting for the perfect moment.”
Bella shakes her head. “Please,” she says. “I don’t need a ring.”

“I know this isn’t—”

“Shush, Jakob,” Bella whispers. “I know what you’re going to say.”

“I’m going to make it up to you, love. I promise.”

“Don’t.” Bella smiles. “Honestly, it’s perfect.”

Jakob’s heart swells. He leans closer, his lips brushing her ear. “It’s not how we imagined it, but I want you to know—I’ve never been happier than I am right now,” he whispers.

Bella is blushing again. “Me either.”

Meet the Author

When Georgia Hunter was fifteen years old, she learned that she came from a family of Holocaust survivors. We Were the Lucky Ones was born of her quest to uncover her family’s staggering history. Hunter’s website, georgiahunterauthor.com, offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the extensive research this project has entailed. She lives in Connecticut.

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We Were the Lucky Ones 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Anonymous 7 months ago
Once I began reading this book life stopped. I couldn't put it down. The challenges; the not knowing where other family members were; the cruelty of the Nazi's and all of the "near misses" of being captured (and being captured) - were riveting. The author did an amazing job of bringing the reader into the experience with all of the associated emotions. This true story needed to be written. Thank you for sharing it.
Anonymous 7 months ago
One of the best pieces I have ever enjoyed reading! At first I thought the author used stories from various people . When I read the final notes, I was once again gripped with emotion to learn that it was all one family . I have never read a book with quite these emotional feelings . The view into the what else happened to people during the Holocaust besides the camps was so informative and moving .
Anonymous 8 months ago
I read this book continuously once started. An amazing family
Anonymous 8 months ago
You can read this book , you will never be able to forget it..!
Anonymous 8 months ago
This family was indeed lucky but also smart and brave. Everyone should never forget the horrors that Hitler inflicted on the Jews.
Anonymous 6 months ago
Amazing novel and reminder of what is important
Anonymous 6 months ago
Great
Bosh 7 days ago
You Can't Put This Down. It is rare -- and I mean rare -- when I want to turn to the last page to read the ending. I didn't. But We are the Lucky Ones grips the reader like a thriller and is based on a true story. Beginning in Poland in 1939, this novel weaves together the stories of multiple members of a Jewish family who are torn apart and scattered across the globe to survive the Holocaust -- all the while trying to find each other. The writing is crisp, the characters are vivid, and the stories outline how each family member faces insurmountable odds. The suspense would not allow me to put this book down. This is an outstanding debut novel, and the courage of this family will live in your heart long after the last page is turned. This is one book that is a must read.
Anonymous 17 days ago
This moving story reminds us of who we are and what we are capable of, both good and horrible! BUT we must not forget these stories though we never seem to learn the lessons of the Holocaust As someone who watched her cousin's number tatoo when I was young and heard about his survival from Auschwicz, I am ever grateful for my great grandparents exodus from Europe long before the war and grateful too to the author for keeping this history alive for all! Great book--thank you, Addy's granddaughter!
Anonymous 4 months ago
Wonderful book!
Anonymous 4 months ago
One if the best books I have read. Can't stop thinking about it.
Piney10 5 months ago
An extraordinary and gripping story of courage, struggle, loss, and survival. The novel centers on a close knit, Jewish Polish family during World War II, and the different paths and challenges they each faced, often not by choice. The book touches three continents. Ms Hunter wove a very intricate tale. It is hard to believe this is her debut novel as it is extremely well written, captivating, realistic and all of the characters were all so well defined. A very good read.
mab67 6 months ago
I have read a lot of books about the WW11. This story is more real told threw real events each family member had to endure but by the grace of God go I. Love it and highly recommend is a page turner I read it in one night .
DelightfullyReadable 6 months ago
It's an intimate and a sweeping narrative. The story follows one Polish Jewish family through the Holocaust and around the world. An extraordinary story based on a true story; it's a must read!
Bob-the-Librarian 7 months ago
Absolutely the best book of the year!!! Could not put it down. This fast paced novel weaves together charismatic and appealing main characters into an epic saga of WW II survival stories that covers almost all corners of the globe. Five stars!!!
CLynnT 8 months ago
When I finished this book, I struggled with two conflicting emotions. The first being “Wow, what a great read. I sure enjoyed escaping reality during the hours I was immersed in this book.” The second and more enduring emotion is “This really happened. Probably in much more gruesome details than conveyed by the author. What a shame that humans were able to commit these atrocities to others and no one stepped in until the damage was done.” Georgia Hunter has shared a rich and vivid history of her family, a product of months and years of research and commitment. This is a history we need to honor and never forget, never pretend it didn’t happen as bad as some say. It did and it could again. Each member of the Kurc family is created clearly with a personality, feelings and desires. As the atrocities of the Germans (and other countries as well) continue to grow in strength and lack of empathy against the Jews, we witness the souls of each person evolve into a living being intent on survival, each preyed upon mercilessly. This is a history of one family’s survival, amazing and accurate, as thousands around them were shot, starved, beaten and exterminated for years. And it continues to describe persecutions that continued after the war ended: people still abused and killed Jews, homes and personal belongings were not returned, entire towns were replaced with non-Jews taking advantage of the persecution. But the survivors of this family moved on, refusing to dwell on the past, looking forward and establishing new lives and homes across the globe. It’s amazing that Georgia was able to learn as much as she did since this topic was never discussed in the generations that followed. I very much recommend this book to those with an appreciation for the history of the Jewish people before, during and after WW II. I enjoyed the detail used to describe the Jewish traditions: the food, song, prayer and binding strength these traditions maintain within the Jewish faith. You won’t finish this read with a warm and fuzzy feeling, but you will be amazed at the will to live, to move on, to flourish that the Kurc family displayed. (I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Thank you to Penguin Group, Viking, and NetGalley for making it available.)
CRSK 9 months ago
Multi-Generational Family Saga Sweeping Over Six Years, Five Continents - This is the story of the Kurc family, a Jewish family living in Radom, Poland, in the beginning of March of 1939. The exception being one son, Addy, living in the heart of Toulouse, who returns twice a year to Radom for Rosh Hashanah and Passover. He loves his family, but there’s an energy to Montmartre with its artists and musicians, the clubs he can’t quite bring himself to leave. You wouldn’t think anyone had a care in the world there. There’s been talk around, some graffiti, but nothing alarming, everything appeared very much still contained to Germany. Until that was no longer true. A day, a week, a moment later… life changed, little by little, people accepting the “small” changes. Best not to make a fuss when it’s just one change. One more change. Although this is Historical Fiction, this is based on the real-life story of Georgia Hunter’s grandfather, who was one of the members of this real family. Even though I was aware of this being based on the lives of actual people, this doesn’t read like a memoir, there is an essence of a multi-generational family saga that sweeps over six years time and five different continents to place the reader in a time and place so easily recognized now for what it was. You get to know this family, their quirks, their differences, and their unique personalities. As you may expect, there are trials that each of these individuals must make it through. The never-ending fear. The constant worrying about those loved ones. Where were they? How were they? Will they ever see them again? Are they even alive? So much heartache and heartbreak. All the time knowing that worse had happened, was happening, over and over again. I really appreciated that the chapters in this story began with the date and location along with the historical aspect of what occurred on that date, as well as the name(s) of the character(s) focused on in that chapter. I loved reading the Author’s Note at the end, and the inclusion of a photo of her with her grandfather, how she came to find out his real-life story, and how much research went into this novel. The real-life events mentioned in the telling of this story, as well as the story behind the naming of this book, are discussed in the Author’s Note, so make sure you read this after you’ve finished the story. Many thanks for the ARC provided by Penguin Group / Viking
Deb-Krenzer 9 months ago
This was an excellent book narrating the story of one family during WWII. The hardships that they went through, how they endured, how they suffered, how they were estranged and how they found each other again. Their's was not an easy life. The book definitely described this. It also told of love and how the family took risks to save each other and to help bring them back together. It was especially sad to read about the things that Mila had to put her young daughter of less than five years old through in order to save her life. A family who were evicted from their stately home where they had lived for many years. They had put a lot of pride, time and money into this home. They were given a few hours to collect their belongings and leave. They then had to find a new home, one that was empty, in what was to become the "ghetto" and what was a two room apartment for four adults and one child. It was a trying time and a scary time for all of them. One which years would go by and they would not hear from each other. It was almost a decade before they would hear from their one son, Addy. This was such a sad story. Unfortunately, I know that were many of these. I did find it interesting though that these people kept on having babies. That part I just didn't understand. That being said, this was an interesting read, one that I found mesmerizing and one that I could not put down. I felt for these people, the author made them so real. I was engrossed in their daily lives and had to know what became of them. Thanks to Penguin Group Viking for approving my request and to Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.
Chris721 9 months ago
Thank you to NetGalley and Viking Books for allowing me to read and review this book. This book follows the Kurc family. They have 5 children and a grand daughter. They are Jews who live in Radom, Poland at the start of World War 2. This is a heartbreaking book to read. All the Kurcs end up scattered to different places during the war. Between work camps, jail, exile, and the ghetto they have a will to survive. The Kurcs are hopeful that after this awful war is over they will all be reunited again. The book follows the entire war and all of the Kurc family. It is a story of faith, family, and love of family. I loved the author's notes at the end of the book. It is a book I will never forget.
Anonymous 8 months ago
Can someone please tell me if this is a good story so i can read it for myself