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Germany, 1945. The soldiers who liberated the Gross-Rosen concentration camp said the war was over, but nothing feels over to eighteen-year-old Zofia Lederman. Her body has barely begun to heal; her mind feels broken. And her life is completely shattered: Three years ago, she and her younger brother, Abek, were the only members of their family to be sent to the right, away Germany, 1945. The soldiers who liberated the Gross-Rosen concentration camp said the war was over, but nothing feels over to eighteen-year-old Zofia Lederman. Her body has barely begun to heal; her mind feels broken. And her life is completely shattered: Three years ago, she and her younger brother, Abek, were the only members of their family to be sent to the right, away from the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Everyone else--her parents, her grandmother, radiant Aunt Maja--they went left. Zofia's last words to her brother were a promise: Abek to Zofia, A to Z. When I find you again, we will fill our alphabet. Now her journey to fulfill that vow takes her through Poland and Germany, and into a displaced persons camp where everyone she meets is trying to piece together a future from a painful past: Miriam, desperately searching for the twin she was separated from after they survived medical experimentation. Breine, a former heiress, who now longs only for a simple wedding with her new fiancé. And Josef, who guards his past behind a wall of secrets, and is beautiful and strange and magnetic all at once. But the deeper Zofia digs, the more impossible her search seems. How can she find one boy in a sea of the missing? In the rubble of a broken continent, Zofia must delve into a mystery whose answers could break her--or help her rebuild her world.


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Germany, 1945. The soldiers who liberated the Gross-Rosen concentration camp said the war was over, but nothing feels over to eighteen-year-old Zofia Lederman. Her body has barely begun to heal; her mind feels broken. And her life is completely shattered: Three years ago, she and her younger brother, Abek, were the only members of their family to be sent to the right, away Germany, 1945. The soldiers who liberated the Gross-Rosen concentration camp said the war was over, but nothing feels over to eighteen-year-old Zofia Lederman. Her body has barely begun to heal; her mind feels broken. And her life is completely shattered: Three years ago, she and her younger brother, Abek, were the only members of their family to be sent to the right, away from the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Everyone else--her parents, her grandmother, radiant Aunt Maja--they went left. Zofia's last words to her brother were a promise: Abek to Zofia, A to Z. When I find you again, we will fill our alphabet. Now her journey to fulfill that vow takes her through Poland and Germany, and into a displaced persons camp where everyone she meets is trying to piece together a future from a painful past: Miriam, desperately searching for the twin she was separated from after they survived medical experimentation. Breine, a former heiress, who now longs only for a simple wedding with her new fiancé. And Josef, who guards his past behind a wall of secrets, and is beautiful and strange and magnetic all at once. But the deeper Zofia digs, the more impossible her search seems. How can she find one boy in a sea of the missing? In the rubble of a broken continent, Zofia must delve into a mystery whose answers could break her--or help her rebuild her world.

30 review for They Went Left

  1. 4 out of 5

    Donna Backshall

    Choose to love. When everything seems hopeless, when you're coming out of something that seemed unsurvivable, when you're overwhelmed beyond belief, you can still choose to love. They Went Left is one of those books that ties your stomach in knots, and makes you want to shout out in anger, but when you're done, you know you have changed. Your heart is crying out to your sense of decency, kindness and compassion, telling you how necessary it is to let these guide your daily actions. Most WWII g Choose to love. When everything seems hopeless, when you're coming out of something that seemed unsurvivable, when you're overwhelmed beyond belief, you can still choose to love. They Went Left is one of those books that ties your stomach in knots, and makes you want to shout out in anger, but when you're done, you know you have changed. Your heart is crying out to your sense of decency, kindness and compassion, telling you how necessary it is to let these guide your daily actions. Most WWII genocide stories start before the war, or while European Jews were being sent to the concentration camps. This well-researched and realistic novel, much like Cilka's Journey, shows us the baffling and heartbreaking aftermath. We learn just how difficult it can be to survive the unthinkable and to endure the continuing hell of putting together a life and family torn apart by such evil as the Holocaust.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Celia McMahon

    Thank you Edelweiss for this phenomenal e-galley! I cannot stress this enough: I am a sucker for punishment and will read every WW2 book out there no matter how heart-wrenching, gut-punching, how completely soul-destroying it is. THEY WENT LEFT tells the unique story of what happened AFTER the concentration camps were liberated. Zofia, who has lost her entire family, holds onto hope that her little brother, Abek is alive. Accompanied first by a Russian soldier, she arrives back home only to find Thank you Edelweiss for this phenomenal e-galley! I cannot stress this enough: I am a sucker for punishment and will read every WW2 book out there no matter how heart-wrenching, gut-punching, how completely soul-destroying it is. THEY WENT LEFT tells the unique story of what happened AFTER the concentration camps were liberated. Zofia, who has lost her entire family, holds onto hope that her little brother, Abek is alive. Accompanied first by a Russian soldier, she arrives back home only to find it utterly changed. In an effort to track her brother's whereabouts, she travels far and ends up in Germany where she joins a group of people, displaced and lost, but also hopeful. It's there that she finds a future for herself. Zofia is an unreliable narrator. She's traumatized by her time in concentration camps, as anyone would be. It is through her memories that we experience the brutality of what happened and the atrocities that she had witnessed. This book made me uncomfortable, but it should. this stuff HAPPENED and it should not be forgotten because you feel uneasy. The war did not end for a lot of people even after they were liberated and this book is a testament to that. I recommend this book for all ages because we should not censor our kids. The past is very much real and should be discussed and read and seen. This book is beautifully written and raw and powerful.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Zoe

    Heartwrenching, haunting, and hopeful! They Went Left is a poignant, compelling tale that sweeps you away to post-war Germany and into the life of Zofia Lederman, a young Jewish girl who after being liberated from a Nazi concentration camp and with a mind traumatized by cruelty and violence travels from her home town in Poland to the Foehrenwald Displaced Persons Camp to search for the one family member who may not be lost forever and that she swore to protect, her younger brother, Abek. The prose Heartwrenching, haunting, and hopeful! They Went Left is a poignant, compelling tale that sweeps you away to post-war Germany and into the life of Zofia Lederman, a young Jewish girl who after being liberated from a Nazi concentration camp and with a mind traumatized by cruelty and violence travels from her home town in Poland to the Foehrenwald Displaced Persons Camp to search for the one family member who may not be lost forever and that she swore to protect, her younger brother, Abek. The prose is raw and tense. The characters are vulnerable, tortured, and resilient. And the plot is a moving tale about life, love, bravery, strength, loss, deception, hope, survival, and the enduring aftereffects of war. Overall, They Went Left is a lovely blend of historical facts, realistic fiction, and palpable emotion that does a beautiful job of reminding us that even after suffering the most unimaginable cruelty and wickedness humanity still has an innate ability to want to love and be loved. Thank you to HBG Canada for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Skip

    A bit like Cilka's Journey, this book takes place in the aftermath of Nazi concentration camps. Zofia has been rescued by a Russian soldier named Dima who brings her back to her home in Poland, where she yearns to be reunited with her younger brother, Abek. The rest of her family "went left" into the showers, where they were killed by poisonous gas. Rather than wait for him, Zofia heads off to Germany to find Abek in desperation for something to keep her tethered to this world. She ends up in a A bit like Cilka's Journey, this book takes place in the aftermath of Nazi concentration camps. Zofia has been rescued by a Russian soldier named Dima who brings her back to her home in Poland, where she yearns to be reunited with her younger brother, Abek. The rest of her family "went left" into the showers, where they were killed by poisonous gas. Rather than wait for him, Zofia heads off to Germany to find Abek in desperation for something to keep her tethered to this world. She ends up in a refugee camp for displaced people, eventually falling for a distant man named Josef, who seems to have his own dark secrets. One of the ways that Zofia survives is by reciting the alphabet from A (Abek) to Z (Zofia), each letter with a connection to family or home. She makes friends, who choose to make the best of their surroundings, when her world is turned upside down not once or twice, but thrice. Well done.

  5. 5 out of 5

    The Nerd Daily

    Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Nathalie DeFelice Long after I finished this book, I remained in awe of what I read. The melancholic tone of this story is hauntingly memorable, and offers an insight into an aspect of war that I don’t get to read too often in stories: what happens in the aftermath. Unpacking trauma as well as figuring out how to continue on in a world that no longer contains those we hold most dear. My heart clenched as I went through each page, desperate to cli Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Nathalie DeFelice Long after I finished this book, I remained in awe of what I read. The melancholic tone of this story is hauntingly memorable, and offers an insight into an aspect of war that I don’t get to read too often in stories: what happens in the aftermath. Unpacking trauma as well as figuring out how to continue on in a world that no longer contains those we hold most dear. My heart clenched as I went through each page, desperate to cling to hope for these characters even when everything seems so bleak. I feel that this story gives voice to what it might look like for a character to return to normal after suffering unspeakable horrors, and navigating what is real vs. what was imagined in order to survive. Zofia Lederman is 18, and recently been liberated from the Gross-Rosen concentration camp. Despite being told the war is over, it doesn’t seem that way to Zofia. She feels broken in mind, body, and spirit. Three years prior, she witnessed as her all of her family were sent to die while she and her brother survived. With a promise to find each other and fill the alphabet from Abek to Zofia, A to Z, Zofia sets off from Poland into Germany to seek her brother. However, everyone she meets at the displacement camp she is at is also looking for someone. She meets people just as forever changed by the horrors of what they experienced as she was, and a young man who hides his past behind a wall of secrets. As her search continues, it seems nearly impossible. How will she find a single boy in a sea of missing people? Will the answers she finds during her search help heal her or finally break her for good? Friends, this story is beautiful, but it is also incredibly heartbreaking. You might be thinking: “Well, duh, it’s historical fiction.”…but this book is something entirely different. I wasn’t imagining that I would relate to the anguish that Zofia feels throughout this book. From the start, it pulls you in. Throughout this book you’ll see Zofia’s memories, as she remembers them. At first, it all feels real. Vivid, raw memories that serve as both a reminder and a glimmer of hope. There’s no doubt that she’s experienced some tragic things. Then, things become a little distorted. Zofia’s memories become a little more unstable. There’s something riveting about having a somewhat unreliable narrator. Along the way, Zofia meets so many people with stories similar to hers. With the same fervent hopes that they’ll be reunited with their loved ones. Each character is so memorable. You’ll remember something about each one. Miriam, who seeks her twin sister after they went through horrible experimentation. Breine, a former heiress who now just wants a simple wedding and quiet life. There’s also Inge. I don’t want to say much about her because of spoilers, but she’s the one that really stuck with me. There are many small joys scattered throughout this story that are lifelines for all of these characters. Telling stories, hobbies, and reclaiming pieces of the past that were thought lost forever. Romance is another joy…mostly. Zofia’s romantic partner was problematic, and for once I feel like the ending of this type of relationship was completely appropriate. This story has a perfect ending, at least, in the realm of everything that has happened. It’s not this overtly happy thing that is full of hope, but rather takes a very realistic approach to what’s next for the characters. I have to say, this book truly resonated with me in a way that I didn’t think possible. Truly, all of Monica Hesse’s books have had this effect on me. Her books look into parts of history that most don’t think about. Her author’s notes are worth reading for the historical relevance to the places Monica chooses to focus on. There’s so much respect in her research, and it reflects into her writing. I look forward to her next book, wherever that journey takes us. This book is undoubtedly a 10/10 for me. It’s powerful, and I hope that this story will resonate with many others. Definitely add this book to your TBR.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Diana Bautista

    "Today I am choosing to love the person in front of me." I'm an avid reader of WWII stories, but it does tend to end either heartbreaking or with a happily ever after ending. This book shows us another part of the story, what happened when the horror ended? What happened when the thousands of prisoners realized that their lives weren't magically going to restore to normality? This book changed my perspective of love and forgiveness. I don't know if there's a better praising you can ever give "Today I am choosing to love the person in front of me." I'm an avid reader of WWII stories, but it does tend to end either heartbreaking or with a happily ever after ending. This book shows us another part of the story, what happened when the horror ended? What happened when the thousands of prisoners realized that their lives weren't magically going to restore to normality? This book changed my perspective of love and forgiveness. I don't know if there's a better praising you can ever give to a book. Yes, love is a decision. You decide who to love. And what better learning you can take of stories? Love. Love hard. Make sure they know we love them, because sometimes, life takes your loved ones away, and there's no bigger regret that knowing your love was quiet. Instead, make it a raging fire. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ It has been two weeks since I read this one, and I'm still crying. We love to see it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    I admit, I’m not exactly in the right mood for Holocaust fiction at this point in 2020, but I went into this book for a specific reason: I wanted something hopeful. Something about finding light at the end of a tunnel and holding onto it, despite how easier it might be to turn and walk right back in. Nothing blindingly happy. Just reaffirming. And that’s what I got. A story set right after the end of WW2, during its first few months of tentative chaos, with people trying to pick up the pieces of I admit, I’m not exactly in the right mood for Holocaust fiction at this point in 2020, but I went into this book for a specific reason: I wanted something hopeful. Something about finding light at the end of a tunnel and holding onto it, despite how easier it might be to turn and walk right back in. Nothing blindingly happy. Just reaffirming. And that’s what I got. A story set right after the end of WW2, during its first few months of tentative chaos, with people trying to pick up the pieces of their lives. It’s not a healing story, exactly, but it is a story about healing and the complications that come with such a journey. Zofia's mental state--her looping thoughts and fears, her gaps in memory, her disassociation-- are presented with such great care and lyricism. There just aren't a lot of WW2 stories out there that focus on the camp survivors after they're liberated, and I really appreciate Hesse for shining a light on the topic. Because while there's strength in surviving, I think there's even greater strength in living. In moving forward with your life, carrying all the horrors you experienced, and choosing to embrace love and laughter in spite of the pain. It's a kind of courage that deserves to be highlighted more in narratives. "Today I am choosing to love the person in front of me. Do you understand? Because he's here, I'm here, and we're ready to not be lonely together." I was also anticipating a good mystery, though (I mean, the blurbs and synopsis lean heavily on it) but that I didn't get at all. What little mystery there is predictable and rushed and its conclusion left me feeling underwhelmed. And "rushed" is more or less my biggest complaint about the whole thing. The story throws a handful of plot threads at you--a slice-of-life story focusing on the refugees in the displaced person camp; a romantic subplot between Zofia and Josef; a search for Zofia's brother--and while their skeletal structure is interesting, the execution needs a lot more fleshing out. More development of the characters at the camp, better exploration of the romance. Right now it feels more like an abridged book, and while I really liked the prose and the themes presented, I can't help but dream longingly for the unabridged version that never existed. ~ Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kelly McWilliams

    A gorgeous, heartbreaking tale about the life of a young woman after the liberation of the Gross-Rosen concentration camp, THEY WENT LEFT asks how we move forward after the unimaginable. This book haunted me for weeks; it’s the kind of novel that has the power to change you, forever, for the better. I particularly appreciated the way THEY WENT LEFT spun its memory tale, probing the depths of the human psyche after trauma. I hope everyone finds their way to this story at some time or other. Ultima A gorgeous, heartbreaking tale about the life of a young woman after the liberation of the Gross-Rosen concentration camp, THEY WENT LEFT asks how we move forward after the unimaginable. This book haunted me for weeks; it’s the kind of novel that has the power to change you, forever, for the better. I particularly appreciated the way THEY WENT LEFT spun its memory tale, probing the depths of the human psyche after trauma. I hope everyone finds their way to this story at some time or other. Ultimately, it’s a study of how hope might be born, even from the ruins of unthinkable destruction.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bianca Escada

    What a phenomenal read! My heart! Heart wrenching, thoughtful, informative, hope filled book! This author did not pull any punches! I love a book that covers all bases! You can tell the author took the time (a lot of time) to research this subject, to really recreate the time and places described in the book. You can taste the food, smell the air, touch the fabric of the clothes, imagine yourself in the protagonists shoes. This book is a well executed masterpiece! Moral: to have hope in the darke What a phenomenal read! My heart! Heart wrenching, thoughtful, informative, hope filled book! This author did not pull any punches! I love a book that covers all bases! You can tell the author took the time (a lot of time) to research this subject, to really recreate the time and places described in the book. You can taste the food, smell the air, touch the fabric of the clothes, imagine yourself in the protagonists shoes. This book is a well executed masterpiece! Moral: to have hope in the darkest of places. To find and create your own happiness, when it seems nonexistent! Truly a heart wrenching read! I really felt like I was walking beside Zofia, Abek, Josef, the other characters in this story, etc. everyone was important! Ps. This book discusses and showed forms of mental health/ mental illness, trauma, anxiety, etc. (Defined in respect and well researched; represented in good form; explained through clear language.) Also, for German studies this would be a great read! 100% recommend! . . . . . . Quotes: “Choose to Love.” -pg. 242 (she was choosing to love the person in front of her.) “The absence of pain is not the same as the presence of happiness. -Pg. 198 The absence of the truth is not the presence of a lie.” -Pg. 199

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kristen Majkut

    Monica Hesse delivers in yet another historical fiction novel about WWII and the Holocaust. This story begins after the liberation of camps all over Europe, specifically in Poland and in Germany. The main character Zofia is looking for her younger brother Abek, after her entire family was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau and they were sent to the LEFT. Only Zofia and Abek were sent to the right. Zofia is actively looking for her brother across various displaced persons camps and isn't having any luck. Monica Hesse delivers in yet another historical fiction novel about WWII and the Holocaust. This story begins after the liberation of camps all over Europe, specifically in Poland and in Germany. The main character Zofia is looking for her younger brother Abek, after her entire family was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau and they were sent to the LEFT. Only Zofia and Abek were sent to the right. Zofia is actively looking for her brother across various displaced persons camps and isn't having any luck. She also can't remember certain details about the last time she saw her family. Why? Zofia is beyond traumatized and her odd behaviors are marked by headaches, anxiety, heightened startle responses and severe memory loss. She doesn't know why this is happening and why everyone keeps asking her if she feeling well or if she'd like to sit down. We, the readers can glean that she is actively experiencing trauma symptoms. Zofia is also angry that so many survivors survived liberation of the camps only to die anyway from their poor health. We know from veterans research that PTSD is a neurological response to trauma. The brain attempts to protect itself from trauma by shutting the memories down. The depth of the disorder reveals itself when the brain is unexpectedly activated by unanticipated triggers such as sights, sounds, and smells. The sufferer is then ambushed by fractured pieces of memories that don't make sense and are not in order. This jumble of physiological and emotional responses overwhelm the sufferer unless and until they can process these traumatic events from a safe distance. We know that this takes a lifetime for most and some just don't make it at all. I love that this book features a scrappy Holocaust survivor such as Zofia and I also love that this alternate happy ending is not what you think. Zofia's potential love interests keep things taut (a Russian soldier named Dima and Joseph, another displaced person in the camp she's in). There is no happily ever after. Or is there just a different version of it? I will post about this related nonfiction book in the future: The Body Keep the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk. "The single most important issue for traumatized people is to find a sense of safety in their own bodies." - Bessel Van Der Kolk #books #reading #libraries #bookreviews #historicalfiction #youngadult #Holocaust #Auschwitz #Birkenau #WWII #theBodyKeepstheScore #BesselVanDerKolk #trauma #PTSD #posttraumaticstressdisorder #ptsdawareness

  11. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    Many thanks to EdelweissPlus and the publisher for providing me with a DRC of this title for review purposes. All opinions are my own. I can not say enough how good this book was. All the stars, all the accolades, all the YES to this book. It was exactly what you want from a historical fiction book: moving, informative, timely. I put it down and immediately went back to reread certain parts again. This is not something I normally do, but Hesse's words and prose stuck with me in such a way, I coul Many thanks to EdelweissPlus and the publisher for providing me with a DRC of this title for review purposes. All opinions are my own. I can not say enough how good this book was. All the stars, all the accolades, all the YES to this book. It was exactly what you want from a historical fiction book: moving, informative, timely. I put it down and immediately went back to reread certain parts again. This is not something I normally do, but Hesse's words and prose stuck with me in such a way, I couldn't ignore them. As Zofia says at the end (bearing in mind this was a DRC and subject to change), "What's the minimum expectation I have for human decency in a war that was entirely inhumane?" This question, this haunting expectation of what we do and what we want people to do when faced with seemingly impossible and insurmountable choices, is what made this book so moving. Highly recommend. This is a first purchase type of book for all collections serving YA readers. I would say it is best suited for grades 9 and up due to some of the graphic content and the mature writing. Zofia has survived the war. After being liberated from the concentration camps by the Red Army, she knows she needs to head back to her hometown to find her brother Abek. They are the only two of her family who might have survived the war since they were the only ones in the line who went right. The rest of the family went left, to the showers and the chambers. Mama, Papa, Baba Rose, Aunt Maja, they are all gone. So it's up to Zofia to find her younger brother. But her search for him in the chaos of the aftermath of war is slow-going and the whole time she is haunted by the fact that she isn't sure she remembers the last time she saw him. Will finding him put things right for her? Is that even possible? Like I said, this is a top 10 read for me, not only of this year, but in recent years. Highly recommend. Go preorder this book right now. You can thank me later.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This book was phenomenal, and I think my favourite of Hesse's books so far. Zofia has survived a number of concentration camps and is now beginning the work of trying to reunite with her younger brother. She is doing that through a patchwork of numerous charities - no central database and with the possibility that he has died/been mislabeled in German files/wants to move on without reuniting hanging over the process. I thought Hesse's choice to explore the immediate post-war era was inspired - I'v This book was phenomenal, and I think my favourite of Hesse's books so far. Zofia has survived a number of concentration camps and is now beginning the work of trying to reunite with her younger brother. She is doing that through a patchwork of numerous charities - no central database and with the possibility that he has died/been mislabeled in German files/wants to move on without reuniting hanging over the process. I thought Hesse's choice to explore the immediate post-war era was inspired - I've read a bit about this period of time, but never about how the war affected everyday displaced people, usually I've read about the government/Yalta conference macro reorganization of Europe. The characters are richly drawn, and the unreliable narration kept me on my toes. I highly recommend this story. Thank you to the publisher, via Edelweiss, for providing me with an e-arc for review.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dini Kamayana

    Wow, talk about complete emotional devastation! I'm so glad this was put on my radar through the Fantastic Flying Book Club blog tour because otherwise I would've missed out on a powerful and heartbreaking read that is different to most WWII historical fictions that are my usual picks. Rather than following characters during the actual Holocaust period, we learn about the aftermath of the liberation. I'm ashamed to admit that I never considered what happened after they were "free" to return home Wow, talk about complete emotional devastation! I'm so glad this was put on my radar through the Fantastic Flying Book Club blog tour because otherwise I would've missed out on a powerful and heartbreaking read that is different to most WWII historical fictions that are my usual picks. Rather than following characters during the actual Holocaust period, we learn about the aftermath of the liberation. I'm ashamed to admit that I never considered what happened after they were "free" to return home or if they even had homes to return to; I certainly didn't know that refugee camps even existed! It's clear to me that the author has really done her research and it shows in the details of this well-crafted story that packs a very strong punch to the feels. I really appreciated the author's explanation of her research process and how this book came to life. I don't know why I thought a post-war story would be less emotionally wrecking, but I couldn't have been more wrong. I think the only regret I have in reading this book was doing so in public because I couldn't let myself ugly cry like I wanted to -- and believe me, I really wanted to. My eyes were constantly filling to the brim and the dams were always *this* close to breaking! There were many incidents that take place in this story that I had never heard of before and it was certainly shocking. This was an easy but difficult read. The writing is raw and the author doesn't hold anything back, and this history deserves that. The story sucks you right in and doesn't spit you out until the very end. It's horrifying and uncomfortable, and makes you think about humanity, compassion, trauma and recovery. Zofia is a very unreliable narrator and at first this made me unsure about how I'd like the story. I think Hesse does a really good job in developing Zofia's character, who has suffered extreme mental trauma and resulting memory loss/gaps and periods of disorientation and confusion. Although the way Zofia's narrative is written does take time to get used to, it paints a very clear picture of her struggle and stresses how deeply war leaves mental wounds as much as physical wounds. Zofia's desperation to find her brother Abek, the only family she had left, was palpable. Her growing distress with each moment that she spent separated from him, unable to find clues of his whereabouts, was an almost tangible thing. She's such a strong and driven character, and oftentimes her feisty attitude would come through to highlight her personality from "before", especially when she was interacting with Josef! Although this recounts horrendous events through Zofia's flashbacks and dreams, there's also hope introduced through the characters and life in the refugee camp. I think that life in the camps is testament to the resilience of the human spirit because despite the years of torture, suffering and death that these people endured, they are still full of kindness and experience happiness even through the simplest of things. Yes, life isn't without fear, sadness and sometimes continued suffering, but there's also so much positivity that can be found. I loved the characters we meet at the camp: Breine, Esther, Miriam, Chaim and especially Josef. The fast friendship that was formed between Breine, Esther and Zofia was heartwarming and their happiness was infectious and really warmed my heart. They each suffered such loss to varying degrees, but they all had strong spirits and personalities that filled the story with joy and hope. I found myself wanting so desperately for all the good things to happen to the characters in this book and while the ending wasn't necessarily sad, it wasn't all HEA rainbows either. I don't think there's any possibility of walking away from a book like this feeling completely light-hearted but it's certainly an important read, and a powerful reminder of one of the world's most devastating periods of history that we should never forget. I'd highly recommend it for everyone!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Maureen Grigsby

    There are so many books out there about Holocaust survivors that end with liberation of the camps. There are far fewer that are about those same people trying to find a new place for themselves in a world that in utterly changed. Although this book is listed as YA, I wouldn’t suggest it as reading for someone quite young in that group due to some more mature content. I thought this book was beautifully written!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nenia ⚔️ Queen of Villainy ⚔️ Campbell

    I'm getting an ARC! :D

  16. 5 out of 5

    Alicia

    "...everyone traveling in a different direction, and every direction was someone's home, as if the world were a board game and all the pieces had ended up scattered in the wrong corners of the box." "Choose to love." Significant visual and messages from Hesse's new book to be released in 2020. I'm beyond happy as a bookworm that I chose this to be my first book of 2020 because I knew I wouldn't be disappointed. She manages to weave another sentimental and informative historical fiction while manag "...everyone traveling in a different direction, and every direction was someone's home, as if the world were a board game and all the pieces had ended up scattered in the wrong corners of the box." "Choose to love." Significant visual and messages from Hesse's new book to be released in 2020. I'm beyond happy as a bookworm that I chose this to be my first book of 2020 because I knew I wouldn't be disappointed. She manages to weave another sentimental and informative historical fiction while managing to kick us all in the gut but still provide an ounce of hopefulness by the end. This is the story of the liberation of the camps in 1945 and Zofia, a girl who lost most of her family but knows that her younger brother is still out there somewhere, and she's not willing to give up searching and hoping. She returns briefly to their childhood home with the help of a Russian soldier, but she leaves in the night and seeks to find answers about her brother, Abek. This leads her across countries and navigating all the languages that came together when the war happened. She's in a relocation/displaced persons camp, meets a troupe of lovely people all trying to find love and connection and move on, whether to Palestine or returning to their home. She meets Josef and then Abek returns. But there is much to discover about both of them since the war's end. The fact that Hesse chooses a realistic story with painful discoveries rather than a completely happy one is the craft of a writer to stays true to the story and finds the dark AND mixes it with the light. To follow Zofia's journey through this book is why Hesse is phenomenal. I've read everything of hers and will continue!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mrs. Bradshaw

    SUCH a great book! I couldn't put it down. Monica Hesse has done such a wonderful job with the research for this book and then bringing it to life. I hate to admit how little I have thought about what life after the Holocaust was like for survivors, but all Holocaust education tends to stop with the war, so I am woefully ignorant about what happened after that. Therefore, I was enthralled with the story and grateful to Hesse for bringing to my attention how much I still have to learn. I highly SUCH a great book! I couldn't put it down. Monica Hesse has done such a wonderful job with the research for this book and then bringing it to life. I hate to admit how little I have thought about what life after the Holocaust was like for survivors, but all Holocaust education tends to stop with the war, so I am woefully ignorant about what happened after that. Therefore, I was enthralled with the story and grateful to Hesse for bringing to my attention how much I still have to learn. I highly recommend it!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Taylor Evans

    Once I started reading this book, I could not put it down! Zofia is the kind of character that you laugh with, cry with, hurt with, and hope with. The plot moves fast, and I couldn't hardly stop as I journeyed with Zofia throughout Europe as she relentlessly searches to find her little brother Abek. I deeply appreciated the author's note at the end, and if you read this book, don't skip it. The way Hesse crafts her characters from Holocaust survivors' memoirs, stories, and truths makes this book Once I started reading this book, I could not put it down! Zofia is the kind of character that you laugh with, cry with, hurt with, and hope with. The plot moves fast, and I couldn't hardly stop as I journeyed with Zofia throughout Europe as she relentlessly searches to find her little brother Abek. I deeply appreciated the author's note at the end, and if you read this book, don't skip it. The way Hesse crafts her characters from Holocaust survivors' memoirs, stories, and truths makes this book even more necessary for reading and sharing. She wrote the novel as a way to give us a narrative of Holocaust survivors' lives after the war ended; she paints a beautiful and heartbreaking picture of the impossible hope that helped them survive during the war and that they carried with them afterwards.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kristel Villar

    Actual rating: 3.5 stars It's another Holocaust book that holds so much promise but fell short to my taste. You know that feeling of eating your favorite food that needs, say, more salt? That's what I felt after reading this book. It tells the story of Zofia and her journey to find her brother Abek after war has ended in Europe. I fell in love with the plot. I've read a lot of Holocoaust novels set during the war, but not so much about stories after. But Zofia's journey is not as promising as what Actual rating: 3.5 stars It's another Holocaust book that holds so much promise but fell short to my taste. You know that feeling of eating your favorite food that needs, say, more salt? That's what I felt after reading this book. It tells the story of Zofia and her journey to find her brother Abek after war has ended in Europe. I fell in love with the plot. I've read a lot of Holocoaust novels set during the war, but not so much about stories after. But Zofia's journey is not as promising as what I was led to be. The narrative is bland, and some of the important characters that I'd love to get to know more just faded into the background (like Dima and Miriam). The romantic side overwhelmed what could have been a raw and authentic plot of the story (Zofia's journey of finding Abek), and I was presented with a cute, tolerable love story. The romance plot is predictable, the climax is underwhelming and overall, I felt short-changed. Still, I didn't regret reading it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Marjolein

    I think I'd give this 2,5 stars. Not because it was bad, but because it didn't feel right to me. The last twenty pages fet incredibly rushed and the ending made no sense to me, I had seen it coming, I however didn't like how it ended. None the less there were amazing parts as well, like Esther & Breine in the refugee camp or the depiction of the war trauma they all had. I'm not sure 2,5 stars is the right fit, but they ending really didn't deserve 3 stars in my opinion. It is however refreshing to I think I'd give this 2,5 stars. Not because it was bad, but because it didn't feel right to me. The last twenty pages fet incredibly rushed and the ending made no sense to me, I had seen it coming, I however didn't like how it ended. None the less there were amazing parts as well, like Esther & Breine in the refugee camp or the depiction of the war trauma they all had. I'm not sure 2,5 stars is the right fit, but they ending really didn't deserve 3 stars in my opinion. It is however refreshing to read about things after world war II, it's a new view you haven't seen much in literature.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Danielle Lee

    Omg !!!! Choose to love ! That was such a earth shattering theme in this book when two strangers choose to love each other and start a life together after surviving the Holocaust ! This is truly a story of hope and love that touched my heart and I will always hold with me !

  22. 4 out of 5

    Scott Hitchcock

    Poignant and sad. The main character a holocaust survivor in the immediate aftermath of the war is struggling with PTSD and trying to find her brother. Her sense of events warped by her trauma the narrative can be confusing at times but the effect drives home her grief and state of mind.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Zoë ☆

    Why haven't I heard of this anywhere?!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Caroline Bock

    Absorbing historical young adult novel about a Holocaust survivor, 19 year old Zofia, looking for her younger brother in 1945 in Poland and Germany. A terrific read for adults too.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Gabi

    Choose To Love

  26. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Wow. Monica Hesse writes these books about horrific things, but makes them so readable and accessible and personal. Oof.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Paige Green

    Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher and fantastic flying book club! Thanks! All opinions are my own. Book: They Went Left Author: Monica Hesse Book Series: Standalone Diversity: Jewish main characters! Rating: 5/5 Publication Date: April 7, 2020 Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers Pages: 384 Recommended Age: 16+ (romance, violence, death, TW for Holocaust mentioning) Synopsis: Germany, 1945. The soldiers who liberated the Gross-Rosen concentration camp said the war was over, bu Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher and fantastic flying book club! Thanks! All opinions are my own. Book: They Went Left Author: Monica Hesse Book Series: Standalone Diversity: Jewish main characters! Rating: 5/5 Publication Date: April 7, 2020 Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers Pages: 384 Recommended Age: 16+ (romance, violence, death, TW for Holocaust mentioning) Synopsis: Germany, 1945. The soldiers who liberated the Gross-Rosen concentration camp said the war was over, but nothing feels over to eighteen-year-old Zofia Lederman. Her body has barely begun to heal; her mind feels broken. And her life is completely shattered: Three years ago, she and her younger brother, Abek, were the only members of their family to be sent to the right, away from the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Everyone else--her parents, her grandmother, radiant Aunt Maja--they went left. Zofia's last words to her brother were a promise: Abek to Zofia, A to Z. When I find you again, we will fill our alphabet. Now her journey to fulfill that vow takes her through Poland and Germany, and into a displaced persons camp where everyone she meets is trying to piece together a future from a painful past: Miriam, desperately searching for the twin she was separated from after they survived medical experimentation. Breine, a former heiress, who now longs only for a simple wedding with her new fiancé. And Josef, who guards his past behind a wall of secrets, and is beautiful and strange and magnetic all at once. But the deeper Zofia digs, the more impossible her search seems. How can she find one boy in a sea of the missing? In the rubble of a broken continent, Zofia must delve into a mystery whose answers could break her--or help her rebuild her world. Review: This book is equal parts heartbreaking and equal parts inspiring. The character development is amazing, I absolutely loved our main character and I loved how she wasn't cookie cutter, she had flaws as well. I loved the world building, it's hard to realize how devastating a place can be after a war. I am fortunate enough to not live with destruction like that and to see life go on as normal. I think books like this are very important because we only learn about the during and we don't get to hear a lot about the after. However, I did think the pacing was hit or miss. Sometimes we were sailing through and others we were at a standstill. Verdict: a marvelous book! Definitely recommend!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Dunton

    The war may be over, but for many people, the war still haunts them. Zofia Lederman's body has begun healing. She worries that her mind will never heal. She feels that her life is shattered and doesn't feel she is qualified to pick up the pieces. Her brother is missing. She has no idea where to begin finding him. Journeying out on her own to find him, she soon discovers that just because the war is over doesn't mean that the hate and discrimination is. She also discovers that she is not the only The war may be over, but for many people, the war still haunts them. Zofia Lederman's body has begun healing. She worries that her mind will never heal. She feels that her life is shattered and doesn't feel she is qualified to pick up the pieces. Her brother is missing. She has no idea where to begin finding him. Journeying out on her own to find him, she soon discovers that just because the war is over doesn't mean that the hate and discrimination is. She also discovers that she is not the only one suffering and looking for loved ones. I want to start by saying that this is not a book to pick up if you're looking for a light-hearted and fluffy read. It's very intense. It's deep. It's a book that has the power to stick with you and truly makes you think of how things were for Jews back then. Most people think that just because the war was over that everybody got a happily ever after. That's very far from the truth. This book demonstrates that. It's dramatic. It's raw. It's true. It's captivating and well worth the read. I read somewhere a criticism that Zofia was a very unreliable narrator. I disagree with this statement for the grounds that it's written from her point of view. It wouldn't be authentic if you weren't following the story as if you were her. I do want to say that I'd of liked to see another point of view here. Or maybe flashbacks splashed in for context. I really enjoyed hearing Zofia's story. Don't get me wrong. I just wish that some things were from another perspective. Other than that, I can't think of anything I disliked about this book. This book is narrated by Caitlin Davies. She did a beautiful job. I'm curious to know how many times she had to set it aside because the emotions were so overwhelming. She really stepped into Zofia's role. She became Zofia so much. It made the story even more intense and emotional than it already was. I feel like it connected me to the story. Well more so than I already was. I really enjoyed this story so much. It really hit me in the feels so much. I know that this will be a book that sticks with me for a long time. I'll most likely end up reading it a few more times as well. This book is very deep and thought-provoking. It inspires you to truly think and experience how life was like for those who survived. It also shows that there will always be tragedy and fortune. Sometimes they interconnect so much that it's hard to fully see what's what. I whole-heartedly recommend this novel.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Leah Moore Woods

    Thank you to Little, Brown Young Readers, Hachette Audio, and LibroFM for the advanced listening copy of They Went Left by Monica Hesse. One of my favorite historical fiction books is Girl in the Blue Coat, so when I saw this audiobook on LibroFM, I jumped up and down! Listened to the book in 2 days, and felt so many emotions... Zofia is a very likeable MC and I was rooting for her the whole book. I laughed and cried, and I will be thinking about these characters often. Amazing writting, this boo Thank you to Little, Brown Young Readers, Hachette Audio, and LibroFM for the advanced listening copy of They Went Left by Monica Hesse. One of my favorite historical fiction books is Girl in the Blue Coat, so when I saw this audiobook on LibroFM, I jumped up and down! Listened to the book in 2 days, and felt so many emotions... Zofia is a very likeable MC and I was rooting for her the whole book. I laughed and cried, and I will be thinking about these characters often. Amazing writting, this book is almost perfect. Read this book. Really, read it. By 2021 this book should be covered in medal stickers. The time after liberation is fascinating and I will be doing more reading - Monica Hesse includes a few recommendations and info about her research in her authors note, so be sure to read to the very last page.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alex Baugh

    It's August 1945 and Zofia Lederman, 18, has been recently liberated from Gross Rosen Concentration Camp. She is recovering at a hospital, but is determined to return to her family's home to Sosnowiec, in what had been Poland before the Nazi invasion in 1939. After all the Jews there were rounded up, the Lederman were ultimately deported to Auschwitz. Only Zofia and her younger brother Abek, survived the selection process upon arrival, both ending up in Birkenau. Before they were separated, Zofi It's August 1945 and Zofia Lederman, 18, has been recently liberated from Gross Rosen Concentration Camp. She is recovering at a hospital, but is determined to return to her family's home to Sosnowiec, in what had been Poland before the Nazi invasion in 1939. After all the Jews there were rounded up, the Lederman were ultimately deported to Auschwitz. Only Zofia and her younger brother Abek, survived the selection process upon arrival, both ending up in Birkenau. Before they were separated, Zofia promised Abek she would find him at the end of the war. Zofia is convinced that Abek is still alive and waiting for her at home. But home is no longer home, taken over by squatters and ransacked. And Abek isn't there, nor has he been seen in Sosnowiec since the war ended. Here, however, Zofia learns that prisoners from Auschwitz-Birkenau had been sent to either Bergen-Belsen or Dachau. And so early one morning, Zofia leaves Sosnowiec with some stolen money, a small suitcase and goes in search of Abek. Arriving in Munich, Germany in September, Zofia finds her way to Foehrenwald, an adults only displaced persons camp. Since Abek would only be 12 by now, there is no chance of finding him in there. But Zofia is give a bed in a cabin with two other girls - Breine and Esther. And she meets the reclusive, angry Josef, to whom she feels a compelling attraction, and who eventually becomes her lover. Though at first standoffish, Zofia slowly begins to settle into life at Foehrenwald. Thanks to her family's prewar business making fashionable custom clothing for women, Zofia's is an experienced seamstress and finds a purpose in the camp altering clothing for the women there, including a wedding dress. And just as she begins to come to life again, a boy claiming to be Abek shows up at the camp looking for Zofia. There are several mysteries woven into Zofia's story, which begin to become apparent as she replays memories about her family, the roundup that ultimately brought them to Auschwitz, the selection process in which she and Abek were sent to the right, her dreams about the last time she saw him, her single-minded need to find him now and to finally be able to go home. This is all described in some of the most heartrending prose I've ever read: "And when we got to Birkenau, there was another line dividing into two. In that line, the lucky people were sent to hard labor. The unlucky people - we could see the smoke. The smoke was the burning bodies of the unlucky people. On this continent, I need to find only one person. I need to go home. I need to survive. I need to keep my brain working for only one person. Because everyone else: Papa, Mama, Baba Rose, beautiful Aunt Maja - all of the, all of them, as the population of Sosnowiec was devastated - they went left." (pg. 14) As Zofia begins to feel alive again in Foehrenwald, she also begins to unravel the mysteries hiding in her own memories, as well as truth hiding in the enigmatic Josef. Against this, Hesse provides the reader with a very realistic picture of what life was like in a displaced persons camp after the war ended. She has really captured the chaos of so many people looking for loved ones whom they had been separated from and now hoped had also survived life in concentration camps, like Miriam. She and her twin sister were victims of Nazi experiments, now she obsessively writes letters in the hope of finding her sister. And as Zofia discovers, anti-Semitism didn't stop just because the war ended. But Hesse also shows the kindness of people, like Sister Therese at Kloster Indersforg, a displaced persons camp for children, who gives Zofia just enough hope that Abek is alive to keep her going. While Zofia looks for Abek, Hesse interrogates the idea of what home will be to people who have lost everything and almost everyone that they had identified as home before the war. Just before the Lederman family was rounded up, Zofia had embroidered the story of their family in alphabet form and sewn it into Abek's jacket, so he wouldn't forget. In one of her dreams, Zofia tells Abek: "When I find you again, we will fill our alphabet. And we will be whole, and everything will be fine. I promise I will find you." (pg. xiv) As Zofia rewrites this alphabet in a post war world, it looks very different, but will it become her way to find a new home and rebuild her family? That being said, no one was more surprised than I was when I got the the end of The Went Left and the mysteries were solved. I did not expect what I read. They Went Left is a book everyone should read. This book is recommended for readers age 13+ This book was an EARC gratefully received from Edelweiss+

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