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They Went Left by Monica Hesse
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They Went Left (original 2020; edition 2020)

by Monica Hesse (Author)

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18510116,350 (4.27)2
"Zofia, a teenage Holocaust survivor, travels across post-war Europe as she searches for her younger brother and seeks to rebuild her shattered life"--
Member:lynneapril
Title:They Went Left
Authors:Monica Hesse (Author)
Info:Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (2020), 384 pages
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They Went Left by Monica Hesse (2020)

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I listed to They Went Left, as it was offered on Audiobooksync during the summer.

So many books are written about the holocaust, detailing the horrors of the war. This novel details what happens after the war. After liberation, what paths do the Jews take to re-start life. Who is alive in their families? How and where do they find them? How does one deal with the PTSD? How do you live with the guilt of surviving? How do you live with the guilt of witnessing horrors and being unable to stop them?

Zofia survives Gross-Rosen concentration camp, but her mind takes more time to sort itself out. She finds knowing what is real hard to decipher. A Russian soldier cares for her, wanting to take care of her. He takes her home where she hopes to find her brother. Everyone else in her family is dead--they were divided upon entering Auschwitz where her family was sent to the gas chambers. Upon returning home to Poland, she discovers that people still hate the Jews. The family apartment is there, but her brother, Abek, is not there. Sneaking away, Zofia leaves her Russian friend to go to a place where Jews are being helped. Food and lodging are supplied for a short time as the people decide what to do with their lives. Training for different professions is also offered. it's a place to heal, learn, wait, and hope for a future reunited with family and for a future of hope that a life is possible after such atrocities.

Zofia arrives and notices Josef immediately. He withdraws from others, placing himself separate as if he doesn't deserve anything. He's ill-tempered and rude. Nonetheless, they feel pulled to each other, telling each other some of their horrors. It's here in this place (relocation facility) that Zofia must allow her brain to heal to remember all that has happened. By recognizing what has occurred in her fast, she can find her brother and move forward. Each person represents what so many Jews went through after the war--from being separated from your twin after the war after staying together all through it to moving on to love the person in front of you instead of someone from the past. How do you move on? Each character chooses a different path and they are all correct. It's what each needs to live for the future instead of dwelling in the past.

The novel is gut wrenching. Freedom from the concentration camps didn't end their stories. Their lives continued and they had to find themselves, their friends and families, and a life. it's an important novel to read. Be prepared to have your emotions experience many ups and downs. ( )
  acargile | Aug 22, 2021 |
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. ( )
  skipstern | Jul 11, 2021 |
Just started this and it is really good so far, both the story and the narration - can't wait to know the end, but I will.

Germany, 1945. The soldiers who liberated the Gross-Rosen concentration camp said the war was over, but nothing feels over to 18-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.
  Gmomaj | May 7, 2021 |
"They Went Left" provided an interesting insight into what happened to Jewish people after they were liberated from the Nazi concentration camps at the end of WWII. Zofia's story was a heartbreaking one as she struggled with confusion, grief, physical and mental issues and a desperate search to find her younger brother. Yet, despite all this, I found the novel bland. Zofia was too naive and stubborn and I thought the romance detracted from a story that should have been raw and emotional.

However, I did enjoy learning about life at Foehrenwald in the displaced persons camp as people tried to reconnect with lost family members and move forward, piecing their lives back together after the horrors they endured. It was a testament to the strength of the human spirit. ( )
  HeatherLINC | Sep 17, 2020 |
They Went Left begins where most World War II books end - after the war. Zofia leaves the hospital where she has been recovering with other concentration camp survivors to find her brother Abek - the only family member she thinks survived. Abek is not in their Polish hometown, where she discovers many people still do not want Jews. Despite being both physically and emotionally fragile from her experiences, Zofia travels to Germany to search for one boy among many displaced persons in the chaos of postwar Europe. They Went Left is an unforgettable story about grief, hope, and unfathomable resilience. ( )
  SGKowalski | Sep 9, 2020 |
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For Andrew, my own little brother
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The last time I saw Abek: Barbed wire, rusty metal knots.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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