Book Review: “They Went Left” by Monica Hesse

It’s the summer of 1945, and 18-year-old Zofia has been released from the hospital where she convalesced after liberation from the Gross-Rosen concentration camp. She is determined to reunite with her younger brother Abek, the only other family member who went “right” with her in the lines at Auschwitz-Birkenau, but she is hindered by mental confusion, repetitive thoughts, and memory gaps.

Dismissing her impairments, Zofia begins traveling across Europe in search of her brother. Winding up at the Foehrenwald displaced persons camp in Germany, she finds herself among thousands of other survivors looking for their family members. How will she find Abek in the sea of moving humanity that is now Europe? Can she even trust her last memories of him? If she leaves the camp, where will she go next? And what about the others she meets there—Miriam, Breine, Josef? How will any of them make a future for themselves?

The pace of this novel is gripping, the historical details are profuse and thought-provoking, the sense of post-war Europe is palpable, and the ending is unforgettable. I found it to be altogether riveting historical fiction. Recommended for young adults and for adults alike, it portrays a part of the war rarely depicted: the hopeful, but traumatic, aftermath.


Review by Reference Librarian Laurel Cox.

To request a copy, click here.


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