By: Georgia Hunter
Publication Date: 2/14/2017
My Rating: 4 Stars
“Reading Georgia Hunter's We Were the Lucky Ones is like being swung heart first into history. . . . A brave and mesmerizing debut, and a truly tremendous accomplishment.” —Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife
An extraordinary, propulsive novel based on the true story of a family of Polish Jews who are separated at the start of the Second World War, determined to survive—and to reunite
It is the spring of 1939 and three generations of the Kurc family are doing their best to live normal lives, even as the shadow of war grows closer. The talk around the family Seder table is of new babies and budding romance, not of the increasing hardships threatening Jews in their hometown of Radom, Poland. But soon the horrors overtaking Europe will become inescapable and the Kurcs will be flung to the far corners of the world, each desperately trying to navigate his or her own path to safety.
As one sibling is forced into exile, another attempts to flee the continent, while others struggle to escape certain death, either by working grueling hours on empty stomachs in the factories of the ghetto or by hiding as gentiles in plain sight. Driven by an unwavering will to survive and by the fear that they may never see one another again, the Kurcs must rely on hope, ingenuity, and inner strength to persevere.
In a novel of breathtaking sweep and scope that spans five continents and six years and transports readers from the jazz clubs of Paris to Kraków's most brutal prison to the ports of Northern Africa and the farthest reaches of the Siberian gulag, We Were the Lucky Ones demonstrates how in the face of the twentieth century's darkest moment, the human spirit can find a way to survive, and even triumph.
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“[A] remarkable history . . . Hunter sidesteps hollow sentimentality and nihilism, revealing instead the beautiful complexity and ambiguity of life in this extraordinarily moving tale.”
“Reading Georgia Hunter’s We Were the Lucky Ones is like being swung heart first into history. Her engrossing and deeply affecting account of how the Kurc family survives the Holocaust, against every possible odd, will leave you breathless. But the true wonder of the book is how convincingly Hunter inhabits these characters, each modeled after her own family members. This is their story Hunter is telling so beautifully and profoundly, and ours as well. A brave and mesmerizing debut, and a truly tremendous accomplishment.”
—Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun
“We Were the Lucky Ones is the most gripping novel I've read in years. Georgia Hunter pulled me into another world, vivid, horrifying, astonishing, and heartbreaking, and I walked with the Kurc family as they traversed the edges of life and death.”
—Lauren Belfer, New York Times bestselling author of And After the Fire, A Fierce Radiance, and City of Light.
“Georgia Hunter’s We Were the Lucky Ones is a skillfully woven reimagining of her own family’s struggle for survival during World War II. Hunter takes us from the Polish ghetto to Siberia to Brazil, all with spectacular historical detail. This emotionally resonant, gripping portrait of the war is filled with beautifully drawn and wonderfully heroic characters I won’t soon forget.”
—Jillian Cantor, author of Margot and The Hours Count
“In her debut novel We Were the Lucky Ones, Georgia Hunter has crafted her own family history into a sprawling, yet still intimate portrait of those swept up in the devastation of war and scattered to the winds. It is an astonishing saga of hope, of luck, of destruction, and most remarkably of love, made all the more astonishing because of the true story at its core.”
—David R. Gillham, New York Times bestselling author of City of Women
“Elegantly executed and always clear, Hunter evokes pre-war Poland with loving detail, clearly showing what was left behind and lost. . . . We Were the Lucky Ones is a compelling read, notable for Hunter’s clear portraits of her plucky, resilient family, and for her ability to build suspense and investment without emotional manipulation.”
—Courtney Naliboff, ReformJudaism.org
Cast of Characters
By the end of the Holocaust, 90% of Poland’s 3 million Jews were annihilated; of the 30,000 Jews who lived in Radom, fewer than 300 survived.
The Kurc family shouldn’t have survived the Holocaust. We Were The Lucky Ones, tracks five young, gutsy siblings as they run, fight, dupe, and dance their way to freedom. Read More
About the Author
Whether writing a scene for We Were The Lucky Ones or a trip description for a travel catalog, I’m constantly aware of the correlation between in-depth research and the ability to tell an authentic, intriguing story. No matter the audience, my aim is to provide enough sensory detail to pluck my readers from their everyday realms and propel them head first into the worlds I’ve created for them. You don’t have to be sitting in my dugout makoro to smell the putrid breath of a hippopotamus on the Okavango Delta; nor do you have to have suffered a winter in a Siberian gulag to feel the chill of a sub-zero night slicing through the walls of your squalid barracks.
My grandfather was thirty-two when World War II came to an end and he was finally able to reunite with his parents and siblings. While I wasn’t around to experience his odyssey firsthand, I’m certain his attitude toward life is part of what kept him alive during the war. No matter the challenges they faced, the Kurc siblings believed that with hard work and ingenuity, anything was possible. I hope some of these qualities have been passed down to me. And perhaps they have—without them, I’m not sure I’d have taken on the daunting task of unearthing and recounting their incredible story. Read More