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May 22, 2022

The Memory Keeper of Kyiv by Erin Litteken ~ a Review

by Susan Roberts

May we never forget, lest history repeats itself.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of historical fiction novel The Memory Keeper of Kyiv by Erin Litteken
May 2022; Boldwood Books; 978-1804157640
audio, ebook, print (350 pages); historical fiction

I was aware that Ukraine and Russia had a long history with each other but this book educated me about the Russian invasion in the 1930s and their attempt to kill the citizens of Ukraine by starving them to death.  Almost four million people died in this man-made famine.  The book was published at an opportune time as the Russians are once again trying to take over Ukraine and a look back at the previous invasion made me understand better what is going on now.  History IS repeating itself.

This beautifully written and well-researched novel is told in two timelines.  Katya gives us the first timeline in the 1930s in Ukraine.  She is 16 years old, part of a happy family, and in love with the boy next door.  When Stalin's Army reaches her small village, they insist that everyone join the collective and they take all of the farmers' grain, food, and animals with the promise that the collective would take care of them if they worked for them.  What really happened was that much of the grain was sent back to Russia or left to rot near the train station. After the Russians took away the food, they began to supply meager rations of food to the people.  With no way to grow their own food, families began to starve to death.  Many of the men were arrested and sent to Siberia to die.  

The second timeline is told by Cassie seventy years later in Illinois.  She is a young widow and is dealing with the loss of her husband when her mother suggests that she and her daughter move in with her grandmother to take care of Bobby.  Her grandmother is an immigrant from Ukraine and as her dementia worsens, she begins to talk to people she knew growing up.  She has never told any of her family what she lived through growing up but when she shares her diary with Cassie they find out about her difficult life in Ukraine in the 1930s.

This book is based on the author's grandparents.  It's so well written that it's hard to believe that this is a debut novel.  I was extremely impressed and expect more fantastic books from her in the future.

This book will be a real eye-opener for people who don't know about the Holodomor in Ukraine by the Russians in the 1930s.  Holodomor means a man-made famine, which the Russians used to try to destroy Ukraine's population.  It's more than a history book - it's also about finding love and taking care of family during the darkest times and the resilience of people to survive and save their families.   We still see the resilience and the bravery of the people of Ukraine as they fight to save their country from the Russians once again. 

(Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read the ebook for FREE)

A share of proceeds will be donated to DEC’s Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina with her husband of over 50 years.  She grew up in Michigan but now calls North Carolina home. She enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and historical fiction. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on Facebook.

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