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A sweeping family saga and love story that offers a vivid and unique portrayal of life in war-torn 1941 Bucharest and life behind the Iron Curtain during the Soviet Union occupation—perfect for fans of Lilac Girls and Sarah’s Key. On a freezing night in January 1941, a little Jewish girl is found on the steps of an apartment building in Bucharest. With Romania recently alli A sweeping family saga and love story that offers a vivid and unique portrayal of life in war-torn 1941 Bucharest and life behind the Iron Curtain during the Soviet Union occupation—perfect for fans of Lilac Girls and Sarah’s Key. On a freezing night in January 1941, a little Jewish girl is found on the steps of an apartment building in Bucharest. With Romania recently allied with the Nazis, the Jewish population is in grave danger, undergoing increasingly violent persecution. The girl is placed in an orphanage and eventually adopted by a wealthy childless couple who name her Natalia. As she assimilates into her new life, she all but forgets the parents who were forced to leave her behind. They are even further from her mind when Romania falls under Soviet occupation. Yet, as Natalia comes of age in a bleak and hopeless world, traces of her identity pierce the surface of her everyday life, leading gradually to a discovery that will change her destiny. She has a secret crush on Victor, an intense young man who as an impoverished student befriended her family long ago. Years later, when Natalia is in her early twenties and working at a warehouse packing fruit, she and Victor, now an important official in the Communist regime, cross paths again. This time they are fatefully drawn into a passionate affair despite the obstacles swirling around them and Victor’s dark secrets. When Natalia is suddenly offered a one-time chance at freedom, Victor is determined to help her escape, even if it means losing her. Natalia must make an agonizing decision: remain in Bucharest with her beloved adoptive parents and the man she has come to love, or seize the chance to finally live life on her own terms, and to confront the painful enigma of her past.


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A sweeping family saga and love story that offers a vivid and unique portrayal of life in war-torn 1941 Bucharest and life behind the Iron Curtain during the Soviet Union occupation—perfect for fans of Lilac Girls and Sarah’s Key. On a freezing night in January 1941, a little Jewish girl is found on the steps of an apartment building in Bucharest. With Romania recently alli A sweeping family saga and love story that offers a vivid and unique portrayal of life in war-torn 1941 Bucharest and life behind the Iron Curtain during the Soviet Union occupation—perfect for fans of Lilac Girls and Sarah’s Key. On a freezing night in January 1941, a little Jewish girl is found on the steps of an apartment building in Bucharest. With Romania recently allied with the Nazis, the Jewish population is in grave danger, undergoing increasingly violent persecution. The girl is placed in an orphanage and eventually adopted by a wealthy childless couple who name her Natalia. As she assimilates into her new life, she all but forgets the parents who were forced to leave her behind. They are even further from her mind when Romania falls under Soviet occupation. Yet, as Natalia comes of age in a bleak and hopeless world, traces of her identity pierce the surface of her everyday life, leading gradually to a discovery that will change her destiny. She has a secret crush on Victor, an intense young man who as an impoverished student befriended her family long ago. Years later, when Natalia is in her early twenties and working at a warehouse packing fruit, she and Victor, now an important official in the Communist regime, cross paths again. This time they are fatefully drawn into a passionate affair despite the obstacles swirling around them and Victor’s dark secrets. When Natalia is suddenly offered a one-time chance at freedom, Victor is determined to help her escape, even if it means losing her. Natalia must make an agonizing decision: remain in Bucharest with her beloved adoptive parents and the man she has come to love, or seize the chance to finally live life on her own terms, and to confront the painful enigma of her past.

30 review for The Girl They Left Behind

  1. 5 out of 5

    Norma * Traveling Sister

    Haunting, compelling & engrossing! THE GIRL THEY LEFT BEHIND by ROXANNE VELETZOS is a fascinating, captivating, and deeply moving historical fiction novel inspired by true events of the author’s mother. The way that the story unfolds is so powerful, poignant and so delicately and beautifully written that easily held my attention. My absolute favorite historical fiction novels are ones based on true events. Just knowing that is always deeply affecting and brings out these intense feelings that Haunting, compelling & engrossing! THE GIRL THEY LEFT BEHIND by ROXANNE VELETZOS is a fascinating, captivating, and deeply moving historical fiction novel inspired by true events of the author’s mother. The way that the story unfolds is so powerful, poignant and so delicately and beautifully written that easily held my attention. My absolute favorite historical fiction novels are ones based on true events. Just knowing that is always deeply affecting and brings out these intense feelings that I have for the storyline, characters and setting. It just makes me that much more appreciative and transfixed in the story being told. ROXANNE VELETZOS delivers an absolutely beautiful and lovely written story here with compelling and strong characters, a harrowing and vivid setting, and an intimate and heartfelt storyline. The author did a wonderful job at fully immersing me into this story and the characters lives. It was heartwarming and also heartbreaking to read and at one point it gave me goosebumps all over. I absolutely love it when a story produces so many different emotions and reactions from me. I was totally fascinated with the photos that were included in this book and looked at them many times while I was reading this book. Norma’s Stats: Cover: Eye-catching, hauntingly beautiful, intriguing, impactful and an excellent representation to storyline. Title: The title immediately intrigued me and is such a moving, effective and extremely fitting representation to storyline. Writing/Prose: Well-written, poetic, eloquent, vivid, fluent, gorgeous and captivating. Absolutely loved the writing-style! Plot: Engrossing, emotional, descriptive, thought-provoking, interesting, heartfelt, fast-paced, and entertaining. Ending: Tender, loving, touching, and bittersweet that gave me goosebumps. Overall: This was an absolutely stunning historical fiction novel and one that I won’t soon forget! Would highly recommend! Thank you so much to Simon & Schuster Canada and Roxanne Veletzos for an ARC. Review can also be found on our Two Sisters Lost in a Coulee Reading book blog: https://twosisterslostinacoulee.com/

  2. 4 out of 5

    Marialyce

    4.5 valiant stars My reviews can be seen here: http://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpress... I have always been attracted to books about the second World War and the people who lived in Europe during that awful time. They, the ones who survived were left, with not only the scars incurred upon themselves, but also the countries in which they lived that were devastated and in ruin. In this book: The Girl They Left Behind, we meet a young Jewish family who are trying to escape the scourges of being persec 4.5 valiant stars My reviews can be seen here: http://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpress... I have always been attracted to books about the second World War and the people who lived in Europe during that awful time. They, the ones who survived were left, with not only the scars incurred upon themselves, but also the countries in which they lived that were devastated and in ruin. In this book: The Girl They Left Behind, we meet a young Jewish family who are trying to escape the scourges of being persecuted for being Jewish. They leave their young four year old daughter, on a doorstep hoping for the best, that she will be found and saved. It is a terrible option, but one that they are forced to make as they are sure of their capture and probably their death. They bear major regrets and love and adore their child vowing if they survive somehow someday they will find their daughter. It is Bucharest and the war rages as young Natalia, the abandoned child, is found and adopted by a wealthy Romanian family. Life seems to be on the upswing for Natalia as the people who become her adoptive parents are kind, loving, and wealthy. However, as in all things the winds of war blow in all kinds of directions, and after the war ends, Romania finds itself under Russian control and locked behind what would eventually be called the Iron Curtain. Harsh and cruel the realities that Natalia and her family faces are devastating and as Natalia grows she falls in love with a man, Victor, who has mysterious but powerful connections to the regime. This was a most poignant story, one that showed how many were forced to survive after the war. It was a true test of survival and hope that someday things would be better although the bleakness is so well portrayed in this book. We all hope for the best in our lives and Natalia does as well. She adores her family and Victor, but hard choices need to be made so that she can move forward and find in herself and others her strength, her freedom, and those who love her. I recommend this story to those who love a well done historical fiction. It was a riveting story once again reminding us that we, who enjoy freedom, are ever so lucky and fortunate to be living where we are. Thank you to Roxanne Veletzos, Atria Books, and NetGalley for a copy of this well done historical fiction novel.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    5 enchanting stars to The Girl They Left Behind! ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ The Girl They Left Behind is an enchanting story of family based on the author’s mother’s early life. In Bucharest, Romania, in 1941, a three-year-old girl is found alone on the steps of an apartment building. She is Jewish, and Romania has recently aligned with the Nazis, so all the Jews are risking peril if they cannot escape. She is taken in at an orphanage and eventually adopted by a couple, Anton and Despina, who name her Natalia. R 5 enchanting stars to The Girl They Left Behind! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ The Girl They Left Behind is an enchanting story of family based on the author’s mother’s early life. In Bucharest, Romania, in 1941, a three-year-old girl is found alone on the steps of an apartment building. She is Jewish, and Romania has recently aligned with the Nazis, so all the Jews are risking peril if they cannot escape. She is taken in at an orphanage and eventually adopted by a couple, Anton and Despina, who name her Natalia. Romania then falls into the hands of the Soviets and life changes for everyone all over again. The family faces bombings, starvation, and threats to their health thanks to a deadly infection. Through all of this, they are steadfast as a family. Natalia grows up in this dismal and sad world under the Communist regime, and she occasionally gets peeks at her own identity, one she does not fully understand since being separated from her biological parents. She later falls in love with Victor, who works for the Communists. He is determined to help her escape when she has the chance, even though he cannot go with her. She would also be leaving her loving adoptive parents if she goes. My favorites aspect of this book involved the love for family. Anton and Despina strongly desired to have a child, and in a time when they were feeling hopeless, Natalia enters their lives. Natalia was cherished, and it seems they lived their lives making up for all she had lost. Another wonderful facet is that we hear from Natalia’s birth parents. They are always searching for her. I also appreciated the Romanian setting. I have not read a book set in Romania before, and I found the history enlightening and the cultural aspects were fascinating. The Girl They Left Behind is a deeply emotional, fully immersive tale of the sheer will to survive and how intense love defines a family whether they are close in physical space or solely in the heart. Thank you to Atria for the ARC to read and review. All opinions are my own. My reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay - Traveling Sister

    4 stars! A beautiful and heart-wrenching story about family, love, loss and letting go. “In anguish and despair we release this child into the hands of God, with hope and faith that she may be saved.” This was the note that was left in a little girls’ beautiful velvet dress on the day that her Jewish parents fled the city of Bucharest, Romania leaving their young daughter abandoned and alone on the streets. This little girl was the author, Roxanne Veletzos’s, own mother and this is her story. The 4 stars! A beautiful and heart-wrenching story about family, love, loss and letting go. “In anguish and despair we release this child into the hands of God, with hope and faith that she may be saved.” This was the note that was left in a little girls’ beautiful velvet dress on the day that her Jewish parents fled the city of Bucharest, Romania leaving their young daughter abandoned and alone on the streets. This little girl was the author, Roxanne Veletzos’s, own mother and this is her story. The main character in this engrossing novel is Natalia, a four-year-old Jewish girl. Natalia’s parents went into hiding, leaving their young daughter behind, in the hopes that a loving family would find and care for her until they could safely return and bring her back home. Natalia is placed in an orphanage and quickly adopted by a loving and wealthy couple who do not have children of their own. Natalia is an unforgettable character – she really got to me. We follow her journey through childhood and then adolescence and beyond where her curiosity stirs and she begins to question her birth parents decision to abandon her. This wartime novel is heartbreaking, shocking and emotional. I truly felt for this family and what they endured. There were many pieces of history revealed that I had not known about which made the book so much more impactful for me. The fact that this novel is based on the authors’ own family was a jaw dropping revelation. I finished reading the book with tears streaming down my face. This book is split into three parts. I found Part 1 and Part 3 the most captivating and moving, with my attention wandering slightly during Part 2. The writing was excellent, the storyline at that point felt a bit drawn out and less impactful. Regardless of this, the ending made up for any lack of spark I felt in the middle section. This is a powerful and deeply moving book that will sit on my mind long after writing this review. This was a Traveling Sister read that I shared with Norma and Brenda. We all enjoyed it immensely and highly recommend it. To find this review, along with the other Traveling Sister reviews, please visit our blog at: https://twosisterslostinacoulee.com/2... Thank you to NetGalley, Atria Books and Roxanne Veletzos for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review! The Girl They Left Behind is available now!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Based on true events of the author's mother, The Girl They Left Behind is an endearing story set in Romania that immediately took my heart! Two people fleeing in the night as the Germans enter Bucharest to roundup the Jewish population make the difficult decision to leave their three year old daughter behind. Enter Anton and Despania, a Romanian couple who have struggled amidst four devastating miscarriages. When Anton suggests a visit to the local orphanage, they soon find the family they have Based on true events of the author's mother, The Girl They Left Behind is an endearing story set in Romania that immediately took my heart! Two people fleeing in the night as the Germans enter Bucharest to roundup the Jewish population make the difficult decision to leave their three year old daughter behind. Enter Anton and Despania, a Romanian couple who have struggled amidst four devastating miscarriages. When Anton suggests a visit to the local orphanage, they soon find the family they have been dreaming of for so long. But there will be many troubles ahead as the Germans are soon replaced by the Soviets and the Romania they once loved is now very vulnerable. Without a doubt one of the most heartfelt WWII/Cold War stories of the year! If I had one little quibble, the last 1/3 of the novel really escalated towards resolution and I wasn't totally ready to let go of the characters....yet! Thanks to Netgalley for an e- ARC in exchange for an honest review

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brenda - Traveling Sister

    The Girl They Left Behind is an emotional family saga and a love story filled with tragedy yet written with hope that drew me right in one of my favorite types of stories. Roxanne Veletzos passionately and vividly weaves her family’s story, some history of WWll Romania with a fictional side to some of this story. She starts the story off by vividly capturing the desperation of Jewish parents who left their daughter behind in hopes she will be safely taken care of and survive the violence surroun The Girl They Left Behind is an emotional family saga and a love story filled with tragedy yet written with hope that drew me right in one of my favorite types of stories. Roxanne Veletzos passionately and vividly weaves her family’s story, some history of WWll Romania with a fictional side to some of this story. She starts the story off by vividly capturing the desperation of Jewish parents who left their daughter behind in hopes she will be safely taken care of and survive the violence surrounding them. We are taken on a heartbreaking journey with her grandparents’ story that she changed very little of. I appreciate how Roxanne Veletzos filled in the mystery to some of this story with her fictional account to the story. Making this such a hopeful and satisfying story to read right to the very end. I highly recommend! Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for our ARC to read and review

  7. 5 out of 5

    Brenda

    Bucharest, 1941 and the little Jewish girl, not quite four years old, had been abandoned in the frosty night air; discovered by the concierge, she was cold, limp and whimpering. Some time later, she was taken to an orphanage where she withdrew into herself, frightened, not knowing what was happening. When Despina and Anton, a wealthy but childless couple desperate for a child adopted her, they named her Natalia. Her future was assured. But war ravaged the country, and turmoil surrounded them with Bucharest, 1941 and the little Jewish girl, not quite four years old, had been abandoned in the frosty night air; discovered by the concierge, she was cold, limp and whimpering. Some time later, she was taken to an orphanage where she withdrew into herself, frightened, not knowing what was happening. When Despina and Anton, a wealthy but childless couple desperate for a child adopted her, they named her Natalia. Her future was assured. But war ravaged the country, and turmoil surrounded them with the Nazis in control; bombing a constant in their lives and the sounds of sirens sending fear through them. But it was when the Soviets took over that things took a turn for the worst. Starvation, oppression, danger – would they ever know peace again? But when Natalia was in her early twenties an opportunity to flee was offered. What would she do? Would she grasp it with both hands? How could she leave the country she’d known all her life; the parents who had given her everything? Poignant, deeply moving and intensely heart breaking, The Girl They Left Behind is a historical fiction novel based on author Roxanne Veletzos’ mother’s life. Set during the days of WWII and continuing into the years following, it shows immense courage and a family’s incredible love and devotion to one another. The author’s notes plus family photographs at the end give the story deeper meaning – an excellent novel which I thoroughly enjoyed. With thanks to Simon & Schuster AU for my uncorrected proof ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kate Quinn

    Will definitely be giving a cover quote for this one--forthcoming! Updated: "Roxanne Veletzos pens a fresh, original debut in THE GIRL THEY LEFT BEHIND, twining personal family drama together with the lesser-known history of World War II Romania. When an explosion of horrific anti-Semitic violence sends a Jewish family fleeing into the night, driving them to leave their only daughter in the safe arms of new parents, the consequences will reverberate past Hitler's defeat through the Soviet oppress Will definitely be giving a cover quote for this one--forthcoming! Updated: "Roxanne Veletzos pens a fresh, original debut in THE GIRL THEY LEFT BEHIND, twining personal family drama together with the lesser-known history of World War II Romania. When an explosion of horrific anti-Semitic violence sends a Jewish family fleeing into the night, driving them to leave their only daughter in the safe arms of new parents, the consequences will reverberate past Hitler's defeat through the Soviet oppression of post-war Bucharest. 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."

  9. 5 out of 5

    Zoe

    Evocative, absorbing, and incredibly affecting! The Girl They Left Behind is a powerful, riveting tale that sweeps you into a country ravaged and oppressed by war and then forced to endure economic instability, political upheaval, social injustice, and lack of freedoms under Stalinist rule. The prose is poetic and enchanting. The characters are multi-layered, resilient, and vulnerable. And the plot, set in Romania during the mid-1900s, is a profoundly moving tale about war, familial relationships, Evocative, absorbing, and incredibly affecting! The Girl They Left Behind is a powerful, riveting tale that sweeps you into a country ravaged and oppressed by war and then forced to endure economic instability, political upheaval, social injustice, and lack of freedoms under Stalinist rule. The prose is poetic and enchanting. The characters are multi-layered, resilient, and vulnerable. And the plot, set in Romania during the mid-1900s, is a profoundly moving tale about war, familial relationships, heartbreak, loss, guilt, grief, suspicion, desperation, resilience, courage, coming of age, and hope. Overall, The Girl They Left Behind is the perfect blend of historical facts, compelling fiction, and palpable emotion. It’s a beautifully written story that is nostalgic, heart-wrenching, and impactful and does a remarkable job of highlighting not only the indomitable spirit of humanity to endure, survive, conquer, and even love under even the most atrocious of circumstances but also Veletzos’ passion for her maternal heritage. Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bev Walkling

    A huge thank you to #NetGalley and #Simon&Schuster for granting me my wish and allowing me to read this book. I finished it yesterday and have thought a lot about it since then. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own. I have read many books that are set in the time period of the Second World War. In many ways it was a time period that shaped my life as my parents and relatives lived through it (except for a few) and it affected them in ways that trickled down to my generati A huge thank you to #NetGalley and #Simon&Schuster for granting me my wish and allowing me to read this book. I finished it yesterday and have thought a lot about it since then. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own. I have read many books that are set in the time period of the Second World War. In many ways it was a time period that shaped my life as my parents and relatives lived through it (except for a few) and it affected them in ways that trickled down to my generation. This story in this fact-inspired novel began during the war but continued on afterwards to a time period that I do remember living through and though it was set in the past, the story told resonates deeply with what I see happening around us in this present era as well. The story begins in Romania. I haven't read a lot about the war in Romania so I found it fascinating to discover what life was like for the people there at that time. In 1941 during the time of the Bucharest pogrom, a young Jewish couple escape from their home while the local police are waiting to take them away. In order to survive themselves and offer a better chance of survival to their young daughter, they are forced to leave her out on the streets. She is found by a caring woman who takes her to a local orphanage and eventually Natalia (as she is called) is adopted by a well to do young couple (Despina and Anton). Despina and Anton were unable to have children of their own and Natalia's entrance into their lives brought them tremendous joy. The incredible incapacitating grief of Natalia's parents at their loss is well described. It was hard to read at times because I could identify as a parent with the huge sense of loss they would have to have been feeling and yet Natalia blossomed over the next few years and life was good until the war came directly to Bucharest and the bombs began to fall. This story took me through so many high's and lows. Extremely well written, it is dark in tone at times because the war was dark and life was not easy and when the war ended, life did not go back to what it had been before. As the Russians took over Despina and Anton lost pretty much everything they owned except their lives and their daughter. Even their lives were at stake at times. Throughout, their love for their adopted daughter was so great that they were willing to sacrifice themselves on her behalf. I was crying as I finished reading the book - tears of sadness and tears of happiness, and in the author's after posts I discovered that much of this was the real life story of her grand-parent's who adopted a young girl during the war. There are wonderful photograph's that put faces to their names. What stood out to me in this book was the depth of love that both of Natalia's sets of parents felt for her and showed her. There are parents in our world right now who are forced to give their children up as they try to escape to a better place. Sometimes it ends well - sometimes it doesn't. The lessons shared in this book are ones that we need to take to heart and remember. Natalia could be any one of us. Thanks to Roxanne Veletzos for putting this story to paper.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tammy

    In Bucharest, Romania, 1941, a young Jewish couple, fleeing from the Nazis, abandons their 3 year old daughter on a doorstep with the hopes someone will take her in and keep her safe. Natalia is put into an orphanage and is soon adopted by a well off childless couple. The story follows Natalia as she grows up behind the Iron Curtain and details the struggles she and her family face. I read a lot of historical fiction but this is the first I've read about the Bucharest pogrom. Roxanne Veletzos ba In Bucharest, Romania, 1941, a young Jewish couple, fleeing from the Nazis, abandons their 3 year old daughter on a doorstep with the hopes someone will take her in and keep her safe. Natalia is put into an orphanage and is soon adopted by a well off childless couple. The story follows Natalia as she grows up behind the Iron Curtain and details the struggles she and her family face. I read a lot of historical fiction but this is the first I've read about the Bucharest pogrom. Roxanne Veletzos based her book on the life of her own mother, who was abandoned then adopted. The Girl They Left Behind is a captivating, well researched, hard to put down debut! I can't wait to read her next book!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    4.5/5 One of the best parts of reading really well researched HF is learning about otherwise little known pieces of history and I knew next to nothing about what things were like in Romania during World War Two. The author really knew what she was talking about here, her care and attention to the subject matter was heavily apparent and she did a gorgeous job of bringing this story to life while also educating me, such a great bonus! Stories about parents forced to make heartbreaking decisions alwa 4.5/5 One of the best parts of reading really well researched HF is learning about otherwise little known pieces of history and I knew next to nothing about what things were like in Romania during World War Two. The author really knew what she was talking about here, her care and attention to the subject matter was heavily apparent and she did a gorgeous job of bringing this story to life while also educating me, such a great bonus! Stories about parents forced to make heartbreaking decisions always hold my attention and when Natalia’s biological parents leave her behind when they are forced to flee for their lives I could only imagine the pain behind this choice. To know the one chance your child has to live is for you to leave them in such a perilous situation? Ahhh SO devastating. This follows Natalia from that life changing moment over the course of several years and I was wholeheartedly invested in her story. Would she be reunited with her birth parents? Would her and her adoptive parents even survive? It was an emotional tale and one that left an impact on me that I won’t forget. Besides a truly compelling plot, this was written so beautifully, almost delicately especially considering the subject matter. It explored the bonds of family and how deep a mother’s love can be, it was about sacrifice, struggle but it was also hopeful and inspiring, such a beautiful combination that always slays me. Highly recommended for HF fans, Veletzos is an author to watch. The Girl They Left Behind in three words: Emotional, Engrossing and Heartbreaking.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Laurie • The Baking Bookworm

    Roxanne Veletzos has written a engaging, informative and heart-felt story based on her mother's early life during WWII and later during the Soviet occupation of Romania. During the 1941 Pogrom in Bucharest, Veletzos' grandparents made the difficult choice to leave their three-year-old daughter, Natalia, on the steps of a building hoping to give her a chance to survive. Sent to an orphanage, she was quickly adopted by a wealthy couple who were devoted to her and gave her life of privilege. Veletzo Roxanne Veletzos has written a engaging, informative and heart-felt story based on her mother's early life during WWII and later during the Soviet occupation of Romania. During the 1941 Pogrom in Bucharest, Veletzos' grandparents made the difficult choice to leave their three-year-old daughter, Natalia, on the steps of a building hoping to give her a chance to survive. Sent to an orphanage, she was quickly adopted by a wealthy couple who were devoted to her and gave her life of privilege. Veletzos provides vivid descriptions of Bucharest during WWII and afterwards when the Soviets took control, a time when life for many Romanians continued to be fraught with uncertainty and danger - especially those who didn't support the Communist regime. She includes the lesser known history of Romania during these times and blends her personal family history into a riveting, fictional read. This is a captivating, sometimes heart-wrenching story about family bonds, resilience and hope. I highly recommend The Girl They Left Behind to fans of Historical Fiction that enjoy getting a different perspective in the popular WWII Historical Fiction genre. Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Atria Books for providing me with a complimentary digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Bookworm

    This was a fascinating story based on true events that takes place in Romania towards the end of WW2 and the communist occupation in the 40's and 50's known as the Iron Curtain. Although I have been to some of the Berlin museums that detail the horrible circumstances many Germans were forced to endure in East Germany post WW2 and behind the Iron Curtain, this was the first time i have read about what happened in Romania. The author notes at the end that the story is based on her mother, having b This was a fascinating story based on true events that takes place in Romania towards the end of WW2 and the communist occupation in the 40's and 50's known as the Iron Curtain. Although I have been to some of the Berlin museums that detail the horrible circumstances many Germans were forced to endure in East Germany post WW2 and behind the Iron Curtain, this was the first time i have read about what happened in Romania. The author notes at the end that the story is based on her mother, having been left behind by her Jewish parents during the holocaust in order to protect her. The descriptions of her mother's adoptive parents are described by the author as accurately portrayed in the book. The elements of survival and desperation rang loudly for me as i devoured the narrative. The powerlessness of being able to provide for and protect one's child was heartbreaking. What i most enjoyed was the historical details and the impact on the main character Natalia and her family. The author also does a nice job weaving in some romance although that piece left me a tad unfulfilled. I wanted to hear from and understand Victor a bit more. The story comes full circle, which I will leave at that to avoid spoilers. It was a beautiful way to end an incredibly tragic tale. The writing was good although there were times when I found myself wanting more dialogue development between characters and less descriptive narrative. All in all an engaging and heartfelt story that gives the reader a good idea of what it was like for people living behind the Iron Curtain and the deterioration of their quality of life. Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada and Roxanne Veletzos for an ARC.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kate Olson

    Thanks to the publishers for this free review copy! This story is absolutely stunning. I’m even more blown away by it due to the fact that it is a fictionalized version of the real life story of the author’s mother - a heartbreaking tale of WWII in Bucharest, Romania. This is a rare setting in historical fiction, and especially in WWII fiction - I often get burned out on the genre given that all the stories seem to run together and seem the same, but this one, I assure you, is very different. The Thanks to the publishers for this free review copy! This story is absolutely stunning. I’m even more blown away by it due to the fact that it is a fictionalized version of the real life story of the author’s mother - a heartbreaking tale of WWII in Bucharest, Romania. This is a rare setting in historical fiction, and especially in WWII fiction - I often get burned out on the genre given that all the stories seem to run together and seem the same, but this one, I assure you, is very different. The story continues into the years that Romania is under Soviet occupation behind the Iron Curtain, and details the horrors that the bourgeois class faces under this regime. . If you love historical fiction and are looking for a fresh WWII story, definitely give this one a shot!

  16. 4 out of 5

    The Lit Bitch

    This book is marketed to fans of Sarah’s Key and The Lilac Girls as well as fans of WWII family sagas. I was intrigued by the subject matter as well as the time period. As many of you know, I love war time books—mysteries, romances, family dramas etc—-so this book, historically fit right in. But what stood out for me was the plot for two main characters—–Natalia and Victor split apart by time and war. I loved the idea of seeing two characters from the same region having to pick sides during a war This book is marketed to fans of Sarah’s Key and The Lilac Girls as well as fans of WWII family sagas. I was intrigued by the subject matter as well as the time period. As many of you know, I love war time books—mysteries, romances, family dramas etc—-so this book, historically fit right in. But what stood out for me was the plot for two main characters—–Natalia and Victor split apart by time and war. I loved the idea of seeing two characters from the same region having to pick sides during a war time occupation. I was interested to see how that scenario would pan out, so that’s how this book ended up on my review schedule for October. So I was expecting this book to be more in the vein of a war time romance, but I was pleasantly surprised that it involved a lot more than just romance. There is this incredible family saga going on in the story and I was fascinated by the Romanian occupation by the Germans and Soviets. I don’t know too much about Eastern Europe during WWII beyond the concentration camps, I thought this author did an outstanding job incorporating a little know period in history into her novel which completely engrossed me so much more than the romance or family saga did. The romance and family saga were interesting and enjoyable to read but the driving force for me was the Romanian history. This book is based on the life of the author’s grandmother and I couldn’t get enough of it. It was evident that this was a labor of love for the author. It was a loving, passionate story and the personal touch was evident throughout the novel. I went into this one thinking it was going to be just another war romance but what I found was an impressive and moving story of love, loss, and difficult decisions topped by a rich history of a little known perspective in WWII. I liked this one so much more than I was expecting to. For me, I can always tell when I’m reading something that’s been close to the authors heart, there’s a little hint of something extra special and this book has that. I highly recommend this one! See my full review here

  17. 4 out of 5

    Telma Rocha

    I received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley. A young loving Jewish couple, along with their little girl are on the run for their lives. Out of true love, and certainly not neglect, the couple make the ultimate sacrifice and leave their 3 year old daughter on the door steps of an apartment building on a cold January night in 1941. They must do this to give her a chance at survival; otherwise the three of them would all die, if they remained together. Natalia, as she is later named, is event I received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley. A young loving Jewish couple, along with their little girl are on the run for their lives. Out of true love, and certainly not neglect, the couple make the ultimate sacrifice and leave their 3 year old daughter on the door steps of an apartment building on a cold January night in 1941. They must do this to give her a chance at survival; otherwise the three of them would all die, if they remained together. Natalia, as she is later named, is eventually adopted by a loving, wealthy family. The three of them form a bond so strong that not even war can come between them. But even the war takes its tolls on the wealthy, and Natalie and her adoptive parents go through many hardships, but at least they are together during these hard times. The family survive several bombings, starvation, and even escape death by a mere few hours from a deadly infection. With everything this family has endured, one thing has remained constant, and that is their love for their daughter and each other. With the truth tightly hidden away and not spoken about, can this ever so close family of three survive facing the truth of Natalia’s true parentage? It is Natalia in the end that is faced with a life changing sacrifice to pursue a life she can only dream of but in order to do so, she must leave behind all she knows to be the comfort, and security she has known most of her life. My Review: I really liked this book! I cried a lot as it is very emotional. Not only was World Word 2 such a devastating, and tragic time in history, but this story also deals with heartbreaking family issues such as giving up a loved one, and adoption. The love of a parent for a child and vice versa is really explored in this book. I grieved for Natalia’s birth parents when they had to make that difficult decision that one cold January night in 1941, and I also grieved for them throughout the book as well. But as much as I felt for the birth parents, I also feared for the adoptive parents. I felt torn between the two sets of parents constantly asking myself, who deserves her in the end? This book is a true testament that true family does not always have to be blood related. I loved so many of the characters. I fell in love with Natalia as a young girl in the orphanage, and then again later as a young, respectful, adult. I loved the way her story was told. The writer did a wonderful job of creating not just one well-loved character but many! Natalia’s mother was another favorite of mine. Her courage and strength through some of the difficult times is noteworthy. The story was well paced, and delivered in a very seamless way. I loved the voice that told the story. There was a good amount of back story to allow the reader to connect with the characters, as well as a good overall portrayal of what life was like during this war-ridden time. I was a little disappointed in the ending but that is only because I had my own hopes and ideas of how things should have turned out. I wanted to know more about Natalia’s life, and I suppose I just was not ready to have the book come to an end when it did. Putting my own hopes and ideas aside, the ending was actually perfect! Closing Thoughts: I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys an emotional drama, and historical fiction. The fact that a lot of the events in this book as well as a lot of the characters are based off of real events and people, made this book all the more interesting to read. Overall I gave this book four stars on my Goodreads rating. A well written, family love story about war, love, and hardships.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Peggy

    Historical Fictions is my favorite genre. I have read many stories about WWII and I think there can't be another angle, but there always is. This is a wonderful read taken place in Romania and based on the authors family. A very inspirational story of survival.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tina Woodbury

    Wow! I adore this beautifully written story! A little girl is found late one night – she is frightened, cold, and alone. A carrying woman finds her, wraps her arms around here, and carries her to safety. This little girl’s name is Natalia and this is her story. Anton and Despina Goza have tried for years to have children with no success. Through a cousin’s encouragement they make the drive to an orphanage and that is where they meet Natalia. She is the light of their lives and they will do anythin Wow! I adore this beautifully written story! A little girl is found late one night – she is frightened, cold, and alone. A carrying woman finds her, wraps her arms around here, and carries her to safety. This little girl’s name is Natalia and this is her story. Anton and Despina Goza have tried for years to have children with no success. Through a cousin’s encouragement they make the drive to an orphanage and that is where they meet Natalia. She is the light of their lives and they will do anything for her. While it is true that this is Natalia’s story it is so much more! It is also an eye-opening glimpse of not only the hardship and frightening time during war, but also post-war. Once the war was over things did not just bounce back to the way they were before. People lost everything and worked very hard, every day just to survive. Natalia’s family was no exception. I admired their incredible determination, strength, and perseverance. Through the good times and bad times one thing always held true – they loved each other and would do whatever it took to keep their family afloat. This book is based on a true story. Be sure to read “The REAL Girl Left Behind” at the end of the book for fact vs. fiction to find out what was real and what was embellished. There are also several photos at the end for you to give faces to the names of some of the characters. This is an incredibly heart-warming story! I was completely immersed and could hardly pull myself away from it. It will no doubt be in my top ten books of the year! *Thank you NetGalley, Atria Book, and Roxanne Veletzos for the opportunity to read and review this book for my honest opinion.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Reeca Elliott

    During WWII, Natalia is left at an orphanage when she is just a small child. She is adopted by an amazing set of parents. They truly want the best for her. When the Iron Curtain fell on Bucharest, their whole lives changed for the worst.There is so much packed into this read. With the daily struggles just to survive, it is hard to read in places. Natalia is a talented pianist, but she ends up working in a warehouse just to support herself and her parents. Her parents lost everything during the R During WWII, Natalia is left at an orphanage when she is just a small child. She is adopted by an amazing set of parents. They truly want the best for her. When the Iron Curtain fell on Bucharest, their whole lives changed for the worst.
There is so much packed into this read. With the daily struggles just to survive, it is hard to read in places. Natalia is a talented pianist, but she ends up working in a warehouse just to support herself and her parents. Her parents lost everything during the Russian occupation. Their home, their business, their dignity, is all gone!
Victor is a rising star under the communist rule. He became a friend of this family back when he was a starving student. This friendship is Natalia's saving grace in more ways than one. She is in love with Victor. And he loves her enough to set her free!
I fluctuated between 4 and 5 stars while I was reading this book. But the ending rolled it on up to 5. Talk about emotional whirlwind. I am not much of a cryer during books...but this one ALMOST succeeded in making me cry. Any author who can achieve that deserves 5 stars! And to know...it is based on the author's family. Superbly done!
I received this novel from Atria Books via Netgalley.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    This book is a perfect example of how real life experience can enhance a story. This book is kind of modeled off of the author's real life. Thus you could feel the labor of love by reading this book. The characters came alive as did the story. Natalia was a strong woman. Which I imagined was not an easy thing to come by during that time period. Yet, on the other hand, I can see a lot of women showing strength in adversity. I have read a lot of books during the WWI and WWII era. I am a fan of the This book is a perfect example of how real life experience can enhance a story. This book is kind of modeled off of the author's real life. Thus you could feel the labor of love by reading this book. The characters came alive as did the story. Natalia was a strong woman. Which I imagined was not an easy thing to come by during that time period. Yet, on the other hand, I can see a lot of women showing strength in adversity. I have read a lot of books during the WWI and WWII era. I am a fan of these types of books. Instantly, from the beginning, I felt like I was in Romania. Victor was another shining light in this book. His and Natalia's relationship was true. He risked a lot to help save her. While, the focal point of this book may have been on Natalia and Victor; the other characters were not muted or downplayed in roles. The story really picks up in the last half of the book. If you are a fan of historical fiction, memoirs, WWI, WWII, or on the look out for a wonderful book to read; you need to pick up a copy of this book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Donna Davis

    I was ready for something that was a little different, and then an online friend recommended this historical fiction for review. Thanks go to Net Galley and Atria Books for the DRC. It’s for sale today. The story stems from the Bucharest Pogrom of 1941, in which hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed. And to show you how much I knew about this particular event before I read this book—my ignorance was so painful—I called to my spouse and said, “Honey? Isn’t Bucharest in Hungary?” The world-tra I was ready for something that was a little different, and then an online friend recommended this historical fiction for review. Thanks go to Net Galley and Atria Books for the DRC. It’s for sale today. The story stems from the Bucharest Pogrom of 1941, in which hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed. And to show you how much I knew about this particular event before I read this book—my ignorance was so painful—I called to my spouse and said, “Honey? Isn’t Bucharest in Hungary?” The world-traveled, multilingual expatriate responded, “That’s Budapest. Bucharest is in Romania.” Ahem. So this corner of my historical education was severely in need of help, and this was a good start for me. If I were to rate this story solely on its merit as a novel, I’d call it 3.5 because of some unevenness in the quality of writing, but the educational aspect of it is undeniable, and it makes a big difference. The story centers on Natalia, a child that is abandoned during the pogrom when her parents flee from what they believe may be their death; they expect to be caught and killed. She is much loved, but her father persuades her mother that the only way the girl will make it out alive is if they leave her in the lobby of their apartment building with a note. She is adopted by a very wealthy couple that lavishes her with every possible comfort, until the regime falls and Romania comes inside of the Soviet orbit. After the coup, the conspicuously wealthy become government targets, and their assets—down to literally the clothes on their backs in some cases—are nationalized. Over the course of time, Natalia learns of her adoption and the parents to whom she was born. The story uses the author’s family history as a framework, and notes at the end explain what aspects are autobiographical in nature, and which have been altered for the sake of the story. There are family photos at the back of the book. The voice is distinctly Eastern European, and that works in the author’s favor because it transports the reader to this time and place all the more effectively than a purely American-sounding voice would do. However, there are occasional lapses where clichés drop in, and it spoils the magic for awhile. The worst, perhaps, is “The walls have ears.” The first forty percent of the novel is the most engaging, and I love the development of parents Despina and Anton, and little Natalia. The last half of the novel, however, is too busy and at times seems overwrought. And then we are back to what I said at the outset: there is so much to learn here. Historical detail is inextricably woven into the story, and our attachment to the characters, particularly at the start, makes the facts themselves more memorable. So when it comes down to it, I do recommend this book to you. If you can find a better work of historical fiction featuring the Bucharest Pogrom, then I may change my mind, but right now I would say Veletzos has cornered that market for those of us that read in the English language. This book is one of a kind. Don’t miss it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    This was a wonderful well-researched novel about an area not often discussed in current WWII fiction - Romania. Plus it is based on the author's mother and her life as the girl that was left behind. The story was not only about WWII when Romania was an ally of Germany but later in the war, they sided with the Allies so they went from being bombed by the British to being bombed by the Germans. When Russia invaded them at the end of the war, they took over control of the government and Romania exi This was a wonderful well-researched novel about an area not often discussed in current WWII fiction - Romania. Plus it is based on the author's mother and her life as the girl that was left behind. The story was not only about WWII when Romania was an ally of Germany but later in the war, they sided with the Allies so they went from being bombed by the British to being bombed by the Germans. When Russia invaded them at the end of the war, they took over control of the government and Romania existed as part of the USSR. The novel covered the beginning of the war as well as the bleak life of the people under Russian rule. In 1941, a young Jewish couple leaves their 3 year old daughter behind as they flea from the police. They are heartbroken to leave her behind but they feel that their lives are in imminent danger and that leaving their daughter is her only chance of survival. Natalie is found and sent to an orphanage where she is soon adopted by a loving couple who raise her in a home of love and affluence. At the end of the war when their country was controlled by the communist regime, their lives became unbearable due to the deprivation and lack of jobs and living spaces. The bottom line for both parents is what they did to help their only child survive and have a better life. This is an intense novel written with love and care by the author in honor of her mother. It's a debut and I look forward to her future books. Thanks the publisher for a copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are my own.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Adrienne Hankin

    We need more novels like this! The book opens the door on a region in the world that is rarely profiled — the writing pulled me in, while I also learned about a city and a piece of history I hardly knew. Similar to the Kite Runner, the story invited me in the door to get to know an entirely new culture in an intimate way. The story of Natalia and her family gave an intimate perspective as to how families in Romania lived during and after World War 2. The book captured the hardship of the war, whi We need more novels like this! The book opens the door on a region in the world that is rarely profiled — the writing pulled me in, while I also learned about a city and a piece of history I hardly knew. Similar to the Kite Runner, the story invited me in the door to get to know an entirely new culture in an intimate way. The story of Natalia and her family gave an intimate perspective as to how families in Romania lived during and after World War 2. The book captured the hardship of the war, while maintaining focus on the family and relationships. The writing was so smooth and descriptive that the reader could stay with the characters while experiencing the traumatic events. As a reader, I could feel how personal the story is to the author, Roxanne Veletzos. I felt her desire to write a piece of her mother’s history. I found myself wanting to learn more as I read. After I finished the book, I was amazed to see photos of Roxanne’s mother and her family during her time in Romania. I definitely plan to do more research on the modern city of Bucharest and surrounding areas — an unexplored, fascinating part of the world. I hope Roxanne will continue to write novels like this. I will be waiting...

  25. 5 out of 5

    Melanie Maloney

    Historical fiction is my favorite genre. Stories like this one show the true strength of the human spirit to survive.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Christie

    This debut novel, meticulously researched and lovingly written, shares the personal haunting story of a young girl, deeply loved four-fold by two sets of parents. What would you sacrifice to save your only child? Natalia's birth parents are forced to abandon her at age four "with anguish and despair...released into the hands of God, with hope and faith that she may be saved" as they escape the ruin reining down on their lives in their home country of Romania near the beginning of WWII. Rescued f This debut novel, meticulously researched and lovingly written, shares the personal haunting story of a young girl, deeply loved four-fold by two sets of parents. What would you sacrifice to save your only child? Natalia's birth parents are forced to abandon her at age four "with anguish and despair...released into the hands of God, with hope and faith that she may be saved" as they escape the ruin reining down on their lives in their home country of Romania near the beginning of WWII. Rescued from an orphanage in Bucharest by a loving wealthy family, Natalia's early life is surrounded by loving relatives and with whom privilege affords her becoming an excellent pianist. But as the war ends, Natalia's parents find themselves on the wrong side of political victors, and her life and that of her parents descends into dark survivalism. During her post-war years in one of many political buy-offs, among her father's priceless stamp collection, Natalia finds a letter written by her biological parents. Knowing the sacrifices her adoptive parents have made on her behalf, however, Natalia harbors little more than curiosity until, deep into the post-war cruelties suffered by political embroilment, she is forced to face her past. Veletzos shares a story to deeply moving, readers are not surprised to discover in the endnotes that this is a story of her own mother's history, seamlessly blending fiction, truth and history. This is a story of enduring sacrificial love, the horrors and tragedies of war and politics, and a triumphant survival humanity's hopefulness finds.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey (Lindseyybooks) Swindlehurst

    I received this as an EARC from net galley for an honest review. I loved this book, when I read the synopsis I was intently intrigued and had to pick it up and I'm so glad I did. I loved the story and characters so much that I didn't want it to end. Although some parts made me sad this book was beautifully written and I will happily give it a 5/5 star review. Definite read for November!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jamckean

    What a fascinating, immersive work of historical fiction! Based on the life of the author’s grandmother, THE GIRL THEY LEFT BEHIND is heart-wrenching, beautifully written story, spanning two tumultuous decades of war and revolution in Bucharest, Romania. This unforgettable novel is tribute to the sacrifices made by people facing unthinkable circumstances; their strength and courage, and their unyielding hope despite all odds. A remarkable read!

  29. 5 out of 5

    A.BookNerd.Bookseller&Bibliophile.Blog

    Historical fiction is my favorite genre. Stories like this one show the true strength of the human spirit to survive. ~A Bibliophile ❤📚 Historical fiction is my favorite genre. Stories like this one show the true strength of the human spirit to survive. ~A Bibliophile ❤️📚

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Loved the main character and was riveted to learn so much about the Jewish community in Romania during the war. Hope there is a sequel to find out what happens to this heroine later in life. Does Victor come back?

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