My Mother’s Secret

History Through Fiction. Nov. 2022. 314p. ISBN 9781736499030. $27.95. F
Lena Miropolsky’s father, Tom, is dying. Her mother, Regina, met him in a Nazi prisoner of war camp during World War II. Lena’s husband, Vadik, is an authoritarian Russiańemigré. They have a daughter, Angela. While going through her father’s papers, Lena finds information about a man named Aaron Kramer, a Soviet veteran, and asks her mother why her father was searching for him. The story flashes back to Regina’s life in Moscow and her flight to Birobidzhan, the Autonomous Jewish Region that Stalin created on the Russian-Chinese border in Siberia. Life there was difficult, with backbreaking work and fear of political betrayal. One never knew who could be trusted. Lena eventually learns why her father was searching for Kramer and accompanies her mother to the Soviet Union to see if he is still alive. The details about Birobidzhan and Stalin’s treatment of Jewish people bring a little-known aspect of history to light. Thoroughly American Lena gets a dose of reality while visiting the Soviet Union.
VERDICT This story of Russian-Jewish history, dysfunctional family relationships, and romance, from the author of The Nesting Dolls, is a good choice for book clubs.
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