Shelly Sanders, Author
Second Story Press, Historical Fiction, 2012
Suitable for Ages: 13-18
Themes: Tensions between pre-revolutionary Russian Jews and Christians, Hatred, Rumors, Riots
Synopsis: Rachael is a 14-year-old Jew living in Kishinev, Russia, in 1903. Unlike most girls her age, she has dreams of being a writer. Her life is turned inside out when her Christian friend, Mikhail, is murdered after a day of ice skating on a river with friends. Rachael is the only witness to the murder, but realizes the great danger she faces going to the police. She knows her family will be at great risk. She shares her secret with her sister and her Christian friend, Sergei.
In keeping her silence, tensions begin to mount between the Jewish and Christian communities. The Jews of Kishinev are blamed for the murder of Mikhail. The entire community turns on the Jews and the local newspaper spreads rumors and propaganda daily. Even the police fail to protect and support the Jews. A riot breaks out and the community is destroyed and blood is shed. Sergei tells his police-chief father the truth, but Sergei is dismissed and his father does nothing. Rachael and Sergei feel hope dwindling, but know they must stop the violence.
Why I like this book: This is a debut novel for Shelly Sanders and she is a very skilled writer. She has done a superb job of taking history and fiction and combining them in this unforgettable story. The events in the story are true. Sander’s story is inspired by her grandmother who lived in Kishinev in 1903 and survived the riots. Many of her vividly developed characters in the story, including Mikhail, Sergei, and Sergei’s father, are based on real people. The story Sanders weaves is compelling and gives her readers a very realistic view of life in Kishinev in 1903. I did not know about this piece of history. I highly recommend this book for middle and high school students.
Visit Shelly Sander’s at her website. She has written a sequel, Rachel’s Promise, to be published September 15, 2013. Rachel and her family escape Kishinev on the Trans-Siberian Railway across Russia and board a boat to Shanghai. Follow her journey and new life in an unexpected country.