Inspired by the story of her grandparents, debut author Veletzos’s excellent novel centers on the devastation of Romania by Germany during WWII, and the country’s subsequent struggles under Soviet rule. During a pogrom in 1941 Bucharest, a young Jewish couple flees their home. Fearing their capture, they leave their three-year-old daughter behind in an apartment building, hoping that someone will take her in and care for her. Their daughter, Natalia, is brought to an orphanage and is later adopted by Anton and Despina Goza, an affluent childless couple. Despite the bombings and the food shortages, Anton, Despina, and Natalia survive the war with their family intact. When the Soviets invade Romania, the government takes over every aspect of their lives, including Anton’s store, and the Gozas are forced out of their home and must live in communal housing. Through all of their trials, Anton maintains his friendship with Victor, a younger man who once lived above his shop and is now a powerful government official. Natalia, no longer the impressionable girl Victor once knew, is now a beautiful, spirited young woman, and Natalia and Victor’s passionate romance becomes complicated by his allegiance to the Communist Party. Veletzos expertly weaves historical detail into a rich story about the endurance of the human spirit in the face of adversity. (Oct.)
A fresh, original debut, twining personal family drama together with the lesser-known history of World War II Romania. Even readers saturated with Second World War dramas will be enthralled by this moving tale of two ferociously-devoted mothers, the daughter they share, and the sacrifices they are willing to make for a new future. Gripping, tragic, yet filled with passion and hope—I couldn't put it down!”
—Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network
"Love in all its forms – parental, filial and romantic – renders each character's life through a prism of deeply felt humanity in The Girl They Left Behind as unforgettable men and women face devastating choices during WWII and its aftermath. The political is personal, and Roxanne Veletzos shows us how lives shatter when ideology devolves into chaos and brutality behind the Iron Curtain. This is an important book for these times."
—Laurie Lico Albanese, author of Stolen Beauty
“Based on the life of Roxanne Veletzos’ mother, The Girl They Left Behind is a vividly told, beautifully written, impossible-but-true story. This novel is a moving testament to the power of the human spirit and to those who defied impossible odds to allow the light of humanity to shine in the darkest of times.”
—Helen Bryan, internationally bestselling author of War Brides
"There are stories that must be told because in doing so, they shed light on the irreparable consequences of war in the lives of so many innocents. The Girl They Left Behind, written with flawless historical detail, is a page-turner. In its first pages, it narrates the desperation of a young couple as they leave their four-year-old daughter on the steps of a building. The tale of that girl's destiny, like those of thousands of others, are a necessary testimony for humanity."
— Armando Lucas Correa, author of The German Girl
"Never flinching from the bleak, this sweeping historical romance pieces together hope from the ruins."
"Written in the gripping style of Thomas Keneally's Schindler's List and Markus Zusak's The Book Thief, Veletzos's powerful, heartbreaking story, and fluid writing style will transport readers."
— Library Journal
"Veletzos expertly weaves historical detail into a rich story about the endurance of the human spirit in the face of adversity."
— Publishers Weekly
"[The Girl They Left Behind], 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."
"A gripping story of endurance; of a childhood lived under a state of relentless war; and of goodness, courage, sheer will, and the fierce, selfless love that binds parent to child. Highly recommended."— Historical Novel Society
"An emotional, intense, and eye-opening portrayal of life in Romania during WWII."— Woman's World Magazine
"A beautiful story."— Good Housekeeping
DEBUT Romanian-born first novelist Veletzos paints a portrait of intergenerational trauma that begins on a cold night in January 1941. During the horrors of the Romanian pogrom, in which mass murders of Jews occurred regularly, a couple is forced to leave their only daughter at the entrance of a Bucharest apartment building. That moment changes the trajectory of their lives for years to come. Managing to escape imminent death, the couple eventually flee Romania for asylum while their daughter is adopted by a loving, wealthy couple who name her Natalia. Natalia's childhood is short-lived, as she soon becomes trapped in a country ravaged by war. Years later, after transitioning from a life of carefree luxury to a bleak existence behind the Iron Curtain, she discovers the true meaning of love, sacrifice, and hope that can rise from the ashes of despair. VERDICT Written in the gripping style of Thomas Keneally's Schindler's List and Markus Zusak's The Book Thief, Veletzos's powerful, heartbreaking story and fluid writing style will transport readers. [See Prepub Alert, 5/21/18.]—Marian Mays, Washington Talking Book & Braille Lib., Seattle
In January 1941, as a pogrom descends upon the Jews of Bucharest, Romania, a fleeing Jewish couple must make a horrifying decision: leave their 3-year-old daughter behind or risk all of their lives at the hands of the Iron Guard. Their daughter survives, and her life arcs through some of the most devastating events of Eastern Europe.
Soon adopted into a wealthy Christian family, the child is renamed Natalia and raised by loving parents, Despina and Anton Goza. After four heart-wrenching miscarriages, Despina is eager to shower Natalia with love, drawing the traumatized girl out of her shell. Anton, the owner of several successful stationery stores, dotes on Despina and Natalia, even buying Natalia a piano and engaging a teacher for the talented pupil. Although politically opposed to fascism, the Gozas' wealth shelters them from the atrocities visited daily upon their city's Jewish population. Meanwhile, Natalia's birthparents have been hiding in the attic of Despina's cousin, who helps them escape the country, yet from afar, they try to help their daughter. From the pogroms and bombings to the Soviet occupation and the fall of the Iron Curtain, debut novelist Veletzos deftly threads historical events through Natalia's life story as she survives the fracturing of her biological family, the destruction of her country, the stifling of her education, and cultural isolation from the rest of the world. As Natalia navigates a swiftly changing landscape, her adoptive father befriends Victor, a political revolutionary, who rises in the ranks of the Communist regime. In their times of need, it will be Victor to whom the Gozas turn again and again. But can he be trusted to rescue the fallen bourgeois family? Above all, can he be trusted with Natalia's heart? And will Natalia ever find her parents again?
Never flinching from the bleak, this sweeping historical romance pieces together hope from the ruins.