Inspired by true events in World War II Latvia, an emotionally charged novel of sacrifice, trauma, resilience, and survival, as witnessed by three generations of women.
Authentic & Profound
THE RUNDOWN: SYNOPSIS & Media Reviews
“A riveting story that will keep you turning the pages way into the night.”—Joy Fielding, author of All the Wrong Places.
The Daughters of the Occupation, is the fourth historical fiction piece by Canadian journalist and novelist Shelly Sanders. A poignant and compelling novel that takes readers on an emotional journey through the harrowing events of World War II in Latvia. Inspired by true events, the narrative weaves together the lives of three generations of women, revealing a tale of sacrifice, trauma, resilience, and survival.
While Sanders previously focused on Russian Jewry, this novel is deeply rooted in her own family history, an earnest attempt to unearth lost stories of relatives and historical events.
“Daughters of the Occupation is a neatly crafted saga of personal and national trauma, a story of tentative hope in a world of menace, as three generations of women strive to understand who they are, where they came from, and how they can feel free.” — Lucy Adlington, author of The Dressmakers of Auschwitz
The story begins with Miriam Talan, whose life is shattered on an extraordinary day in 1940 when the Soviets invade Latvia. Miriam, a Jewish woman, experiences the loss of her comfortable life as her husband is killed, their property confiscated, and their family torn apart. Fearing for her children, Miriam’s act of desperation sets the stage for a multigenerational exploration of the enduring impact of war.
Fast forward to Chicago, three decades later, where 24-year-old Sarah Byrne mourns the death of her mother, Ilana. Miriam, Sarah’s estranged grandmother, unveils shocking family secrets during the funeral. The narrative unfolds as Sarah delves into the past, driven by a dying Miriam’s plea to find the son left behind in Latvia.
Sanders skillfully navigates the complexities of family dynamics, trauma, and the aftermath of war. The characters are vividly portrayed, and their struggles and triumphs resonate with authenticity. The juxtaposition of historical events with the characters’ personal stories adds depth to the narrative, offering readers a profound understanding of the lasting impact of war on individuals and families.
The exploration of trauma’s intergenerational transmission is a central theme, and Sanders handles it with sensitivity, bringing to light the strength and grace that can be shared across generations. The novel is not merely a historical account but a timeless exploration of human resilience and the enduring power of familial bonds.
Beyond the themes of motherhood and freedom, the novel delves into the enduring consequences of trauma, echoing the well-established notion that later generations often bear the burdens of their ancestors’ lived experiences. Sanders poignantly illustrates the struggles of characters grappling with the inherited legacy of trauma, portraying the intricate interplay between past and present.
Daughters of the Occupation transcends the boundaries of a typical historical fiction novel. While it may not be an easy read due to its emotional whirlwind of trauma and survival, the story resonates long after the book is closed, leaving readers with a profound and lasting impact.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shelly Sanders is the author of Daughters of the Occupation (Harper), a Canadian bestseller for four weeks. The novel is inspired by the discovery of her Jewish roots as an adult and by her grandmother’s family, many of whom were murdered during the Latvian Holocaust. Carol Memmott of the Washington Post says this “haunting novel refers not only to the victims of Latvia’s Holocaust but also to their descendants, who carry the trauma of their ancestors.”
Shelly is also the author of three Young Adult historical fiction novels (The Rachel Trilogy, Second Story Press); the first received a Starred Review in Booklist, The BookWalker and two of the three were named Notable Books for Teens from the Association of Jewish Libraries.
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“A gripping historical saga that skillfully addresses the trauma of the Holocaust.” —Kirkus Reviews
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