We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter
Rating: ★★★.5 // A familiar subject told in a new light.
Favorite Line: “What matters, she tells herself, is that even on the hardest days, when the grief is so heavy she can barely breathe, she must carry on. She must get up, get dressed, and go to work. She will take each day as it comes. She will keep moving.”
Written as a fictional novel, this book relives the horror and pain one family went through as they were separated during World War II.
Summary (Via GoodReads)
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.
A novel of breathtaking sweep and scope that spans five continents and six years and transports readers from the jazz clubs of Paris to Krakow 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.
I found this story to be very good. This book is a great example of how many stories are left to be told from WWII. This story of the Kurc family is just one in a million different stories yet to be told, but being that it is based on the real story of this family’s survival it really brings to life the struggles and stories of all the other millions who have yet to be revealed.
I gave this book 4 stars on GoodReads because I do think it is a worthwhile book to read, but my real rating of 3.5 is based off my opinion that, while it is good, I don’t think it ranks in one of my favorite WWII novels.
We Were the Lucky Ones jumps around from family member to family member, so you really have to pay attention to who is where and what their story is at the time. This can be confusing at times, but I tended to remember the details within a paragraph into the new chapter. But be prepared to jump around a lot.
The pacing of the book was interesting, because sometimes it felt like it goes day by day and then all of the sudden it jumps ahead 6 months, and that, along with the many P.O.V.’s, makes following the multiple plots a little more difficult (not impossible but just more difficult than necessary).
I don’t think I say this often, but I think this book could’ve been longer. I may think this because I just finished a WWII book by Ken Follett, who writes super long novels and includes ever detail possible. This may affect my opinion of the length of this book, but I really wanted more details or at least more depth with some of the characters.
The characters are very beautiful, and written very well. It is very easy to have empathy for this family and I immediately became emotionally invested in their survival. There weren’t really any characters who I disliked, which is very interesting in a WWII book. There were obviously some jerks in the book, but they were not substantial enough characters for me to really dislike them. I think this really shows that this wasn’t really a WWII book–the setting was primarily WWII Europe and the plot was driven by the actions of WWII, but this book wasn’t about the good and the bad of WWII, but rather it was about the Kurcs an their means for survival. This book is much more character driven than most WWII novels and it is a nice change. Yes, WWII plays a HUGE part of the book–it’s the reason the family had to survive, for goodness sake, but it is much much more than that, and I really appreciated this aspect of the book.
Upon finishing the book I was satisfied with the ending, but it wasn’t until I read that this is heavily based off the true lives of the author’s family, that the book really took a hold of me. I definitely look on it more favorably knowing that it is real, which is why I gave it 4 instead of 3 stars on GoodReads, however even before knowing that I would have recommended this book to WWII book fans.