Rachel’s Hope

Rachel's Hope9781927583425_p0_v1_s260x420Rachel’s Hope (The Rachel Trilogy)

Shelly Sanders, Author

Second Story Press, Historical Fiction, September 1, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 12 and up

Themes: Russian Jews, Persecution, Separation, Immigration. Family, Love, Hope

Synopsis: Rachel Paskar flees the antisemitic violence and persecution against Jews in her Russian village and makes the long journey by train across Siberia with her family to a refugee camp in Shanghai. Rachel makes a name for herself as a journalist. After her mother dies in Shanghai, she and her surviving family members save enough money to sail to San Francisco in 1905. Rachel also leaves behind her boyfriend, Sergei, in St. Petersburg. He becomes involved in the revolution against the Tsarist Russians.

Rachel and her family find freedom from persecution in San Francisco, but are challenged with learning a new language and strange American customs, while trying to hang on to their family’s Russian traditions. Rachel works as a maid, meets a group of women’s voter activists, and makes friends with a female journalist who encourages her writing and introduces her to newspaper editors. She meets a student, Alexander, who she cares about, but Sergei remains in her thoughts. What has happened to him and will she ever see him again? Then the great San Francisco earthquake strikes and Rachel and her family lose everything.  Starting over is hard, yet this determined young woman never loses sight of her dream to attend the university.

Why I  like this book:  Rachel’s Hope marks the culmination of the The Rachel Trilogy. You can read my reviews of  Rachel’s Secret and Rachel’s Promise here. Shelly Sanders’ fictionalized trilogy is based on a true story about her courageous grandmother who faces persecution as a Russian Jew, escapes from Russia and journeys to America, where she becomes the first Jewish woman accepted into the University of California, Berkeley’s science program.  Sanders masterfully reconstructs life in early 20th century Russia, Shanghai and America, weaving the personal with the historical into a compelling story that creates a rich reading experience. She is fastidious in her research of different cultural customs and details of every day life (i.e. food, clothing, dwellings, and work conditions). Her heroine is a strong and courageous character.  Her plot is moving as she brilliantly writes two parallel stories — Rachel’s changing life in America and Sergei’s hard life in revolutionary Russia — and gives the reader a clear and realistic portrayal of a period in history that few people know. Yet, Rachel’s Hope brings a positive conclusion to the story of a Russian family immigrating to America where possibilities are limitless. I highly recommend this important series to teachers for use in the classroom. Resources: Visit Sanders’ website for teachers guides on the trilogy and more information.

Shelly Sanders has worked as a freelance writer for almost 20 years. The Rachel Trilogy was an “intense three-year journey” for her. She learned about her grandmother’s story when she was 16 years old, after her grandmother had died. It wasn’t until after Sanders had a family, that she felt a compulsion to get to know her grandmother.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

23 thoughts on “Rachel’s Hope

    • Nancy, I was hooked with the first novel eager for the next sequel. I love that she told her grandmother’s story in fiction, which gave her more literary freedom to add other characters. She really nailed the details of that period of time in all three cultures. Shelly did so much research.

  1. Yeah, Wow! It is an amazing story and so inspiring. Such courage and persistence to keep going under such hardship. I must check this out. Would love to read it. Thanks Pat, great review.

    • I hope you check out the series. It is a beautiful tribute to her grandmother and all of the Jews who fled Russia and starting new lives in America. All three books are powerful representing different stages of the journey. Loved, loved this series!

    • This has been one of the best series I’ve read — couldn’t wait until to read the conclusion. The protagonist is 18 in the third book. And, Shelly did her research on all three cultures.

    • I hope you do read this series, Catherine. Great for adults too. I really loved knowing it was based on a true story, but written in fiction so that she could expand the story. All three books are out and since it is from a Canadian author and publisher, you should have no trouble finding the books.

  2. Makes me think of the religious persecution going on right now in Iraq. There’s a bit of romance to history set within fiction–not to take away anything from the actual events of history. But when you see it going on in the present it is starkly horrible.

    • I know and agree. Religious persecution is horrific. We haven’t learned from the past, in many ways. What I liked about Shelly’s story, is that it is based on a true family story.

    • Thank you. I really enjoyed digging into this trilogy. I applaud Shelly for all her research and detail. I was impressed with Shelly’s research. But, we all were immigrants and our families had histories — most of which we aren’t aware of.

    • I really enjoyed The Rachel Trilogy and could hardly wait for the third sequel. Also like that it is based on the author’s grandmother’s hard life in Russia and her journey to America, which Shelley didn’t know about until after her grandmother passed. Thanks for the tweet.

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