Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: war crimes, death, grief, starvation.
Goodreads Rating: 3 Stars
I’ve had We Were The Lucky Ones on my bookshelf for almost two years, and I was really anticipating the read- unfortunately, it just took forever to get around to reading it. Over the New Year, I finally crossed it off my TBR.
In We Were The Lucky Ones, Hunter introduces a series of characters from the Kurc family (see Characters below for more details) in 1939, just at the beginnings of World War II break out. Hitler has invaded Poland, the Jews are being herded and pushed into ghettos and out of their homes, and the Kurc family has no choice but to separate in order to survive. Though they have created fake identification papers to hide their Judaism, they are still in danger of being found out and sent to the unknown cruelties of war. Yet, no matter the precautions, they fall victim to the war and are sent of in all directions.
Hunter shares each character’s narrative as they find their way out of Poland, into the hands of danger, and back out again. Within each, she shows how love and determination are the anchors for survival, and how strength and a little luck kept them going. Hunter also did extensive research, and included news-clippings of historical events for context and to help aid in moving along the timeline. Though the book was a work of fiction, she based many events on actual historical events, including those that she found in her own family history.
Overall, although I was interested to see what happened to each of the characters, I never really felt an emotional connection with any of them specifically. This made it difficult to fully immerse myself in their experiences, especially as I bounced from one the another. The narrative became confusing at times, and the pacing was a little erratic because of the it. Additionally, I was annoyed with the cliches that Hunter chose to utilize throughout the novel, such as “It’s life or death”, “You only get one shot”, and “There is no telling what the future might bring.” As a WWII historical fiction novel, there are so many books out there that relay the same time frame, and choosing cliched diction didn’t add a fresh take on a familiar subject.
I hate to say I struggled with a book whose genre is one of my favorites, but this was definitely a struggle for me. I am however excited to hear the news that this bestseller is to become a movie, and I hope that will help me grasp the emotional impact of this story.
- Sol and Nechuma Kurc– The patriarchs of the Kurc family, who go into hiding with their youngest daughter, Halina, and with the aid of their friends, the Górskis.
- Genek, Herta, & Jozef– The eldest son, Genek, is a lawyer who makes the mistake of not denouncing his Polish allegiance. He and his wife, Herta, are arrested and sent by prisoner train to a Soviet work camp. Along the way, they discover they are expecting a baby.
- Mila, Selim, & Felicia– Mila and her husband Selim have just welcomed daughter Felicia into the world, just as Hitler invades Poland. They are moved into a Jewish ghetto, and then Selim goes missing. Mila is forced to work hard labor, and must hide Felicia.
- Addy & Eliska– Addy, an engineer and music composer living in France, is drafted into the Polish branch of the French Army. After is disbands with the German Occupation of France, Addy attains a Brazilian visa and boards a ship named the Alsinia, destined to Brazil, where he meets the beautiful Eliska. On the long journey, they fall in love and are determined to start afresh in Rio de Janeiro.
- Jakob & Bella– Jakob is sent to fight in the war, but manages to desert by hiding out in an apartment. He pleaded Bella to join him before he understood the gravity of the war, and is surprised that she manages to skirt the war-front and join him. They secretly marry, and manage to escape to New York.
- Halina & Adam– The youngest Kurc, Halina, is a firecracker who marries a resistance fighter named Adam. Adam helps forge documents for the Kurc families to hide their Jewish status (except Addy because he lives too far away). During a pogrom (organize massacre), Jakob, Bella, Halina hide in a basement, and Adam is caught in the pogrom and sent to a labor camp. Halina bribes a guard with family antique plates, and Adam is released. Halina is then captured by the Gestapo and interrogated.
Published: February 14, 2017
Publisher: Viking Publishers
TL/DR: We Were The Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter is a novel about three generations of the Kurc family as they flee the beginnings of World War II.
Read it? If WWII historical fiction is your favorite genre, then yes, read it. I definitely suggest a hard copy as I’m sure the audio could become confusing.
Recommend it? Only to people specifically looking for WWII historical fiction novels who have already read the books I highly recommend.
Buy it? If you decide to read it, I definitely suggest reading a hard copy, but I would borrow rather than purchase.
If you liked this novel or review, check out these similar reads:
- The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer
- All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
- The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah