Rating: 4.5 / 5
WE WERE THE LUCKY ONES by Georgia Hunter is a book that I have seen recommended so many times! It has been on my shelf for a while and I slotted it into my “something old” prompt for this year’s Around the Year in 52 Books challenge and finally got to read it in October.
WE WERE THE LUCKY ONES follows the Kurc family as World War II begins to loom over them in Radom, Poland. They are a Jewish family with three generations living a peaceful life, but the war of course changes everything. Family members wind up spread out to different locations, some sent to a work camp, some living on almost nothing in the ghettos and some covering up their identities to live as Catholics to stay safe. Their tight knit family is driven apart and while they try to keep in touch by mail and by any means available to them, they live with the fear that they will never see their parents, children, sisters and brothers again.
I feel like I have been reading a lot of WWII literature this year (lots of fantastic books!), so worried that I might feel a bit burned out on it when starting this one, but the book really is well done and it takes a very different path. As the title implies, the Kurcs were lucky. Out of all the Jews killed during WWII, their story is really one of hope and unity. They were of course deeply impacted by the horrors of the war, they lost friends and people they cared about, but they could have faced much worse.
Another aspect of the story that I liked was that the stories of the various family members are so different as they each wind up in very different settings, heading overseas for safety, the ghettos where the Jews were collected to live, to the work camps, there was a lot to learn about. At times the larger cast of characters was a bit tough for me to keep up with in how they related to each other, but I didn’t find this too troublesome.
There is a lot of heartbreak in this story, it is hard to avoid it in a WWII narrative, but there is a great message of family unity and love here as well. That this is the true story of the author’s family history adds an extra layer of emotion as well. I am very happy that so many people recommended this one!