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December 2, 2022

My Mother's Secret: A Novel of the Jewish Autonomous Region by Alina Adams ~ a Review

by Susan Roberts

With his dying breath, Lena's father asks his family a cryptic question: "You couldn't tell, could you?" After his passing, Lena stumbles upon the answer that changes her life forever.

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book cover of historical fiction novel My Mother's Secret by Alina Adams
November 2022; History Through Fiction; 978-1736499030
ebook, print (314 pages); historical fiction

I have read a lot of WWII fiction over the years and it always amazes me to read and learn something about this war that I had never heard of or read about it.  In 1928, the Russian government set up the Jewish Autonomous Region in east Siberia.   The area was officially established and began populating with Jewish people from all over Russia.  In the 1940s there were almost 50,000 people living in this largely agricultural area. Despite the fact that this was set up by the government, the people were treated badly and not given enough tools to properly farm the area.  In the rest of Russia at the time this area was settled, Stalin was establishing his communist regime and life was difficult for most people.  Anyone who disagreed with the Stalin regime was jailed or killed.

Regina is 18 years old and lives in Moscow with her parents.  She's been spending time with a group opposed to the Stalin regime and when her neighbor is taken in for questioning, she knows that she'll be arrested soon.  She packs a few items and leaves Moscow to travel to the Jewish region.  There she hopes to find someone that she had met in Moscow and establish herself in the area.  When she arrives, she find out that the person she was looking for had been arrested and someone else was in charge of the government.  She goes to work on a collective farm and works to get her ideas used to help the farm be more profitable.  During this time.  the war with Germany is getting closer.  The man she loves is sent to the Russian front to fight the Germans and she decides to follow him with their infant child.  This story is told by Regina to her daughter Lena who found a trove of letters in her father's office after his death that he sent over the years to try to locate someone from the Jewish area of Russia.  She knew nothing about her parents' past and was shocked when her mother finally shared the story.  Once she has heard the story, she has to make several decisions that could affect her life and her marriage.  

The timeline in this well-researched novel is centered around the present day, Regina's time in Russia, and the time she spends in a concentration camp.  It was an interesting and unsettling account of the harsh life that Jewish people in Russia faced during these time periods.  It's a book about family and love, courage and resiliency with a strong female character who never gives up.

Buy My Mother's Secret at Amazon

Susan Roberts grew up in Michigan but loves the laid-back life at her home in the Piedmont area of North Carolina where she is two hours from the beach to the east and the mountains in the west.  She reads almost anything but her favorite genres are Southern Fiction and Historical Fiction.  You can connect with her on Facebook.

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