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Daughters of the Occupation: A Novel of WWII

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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. On one extraordinary day in 1940, Miriam Talan's comfortable life is shattered. While she gives birth to her second child, a son she and her husband, Max, name Monya, the Soviets invade the Baltic state of 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. On one extraordinary day in 1940, Miriam Talan's comfortable life is shattered. While she gives birth to her second child, a son she and her husband, Max, name Monya, the Soviets invade the Baltic state of Latvia and occupy the capital city of Riga, her home. Because the Talans are Jewish, the Soviets confiscate Max's business and the family's house and bank accounts, leaving them with nothing. Then, the Nazis arrive. They kill Max and begin to round up Jews. Fearing for her newborn son and her young daughter, Ilana, Miriam asks her loyal housekeeper to hide them and conceal their Jewish roots to keep them safe until the savagery ends. Three decades later, in Chicago, 24-year-old Sarah Byrne is mourning the untimely death of her mother, Ilana. Sarah's estranged grandmother, Miriam, attends the funeral, opening the door to shocking family secrets. Sarah probes Miriam for information about the past, but it is only when Miriam is in the hospital, delirious with fever, that she begs Sarah to find the son she left behind in Latvia. Traveling to the Soviet satellite state, Sarah begins her search with the help of Roger, a charismatic Russian-speaking professor. But as they come closer to the truth, she realizes her quest may have disastrous consequences. A magnificent, emotionally powerful story of family and the lingering devastation of war, The Daughters of the Occupation explores how trauma is passed down in families and illuminates the strength and grace that can be shared by generations.


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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. On one extraordinary day in 1940, Miriam Talan's comfortable life is shattered. While she gives birth to her second child, a son she and her husband, Max, name Monya, the Soviets invade the Baltic state of 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. On one extraordinary day in 1940, Miriam Talan's comfortable life is shattered. While she gives birth to her second child, a son she and her husband, Max, name Monya, the Soviets invade the Baltic state of Latvia and occupy the capital city of Riga, her home. Because the Talans are Jewish, the Soviets confiscate Max's business and the family's house and bank accounts, leaving them with nothing. Then, the Nazis arrive. They kill Max and begin to round up Jews. Fearing for her newborn son and her young daughter, Ilana, Miriam asks her loyal housekeeper to hide them and conceal their Jewish roots to keep them safe until the savagery ends. Three decades later, in Chicago, 24-year-old Sarah Byrne is mourning the untimely death of her mother, Ilana. Sarah's estranged grandmother, Miriam, attends the funeral, opening the door to shocking family secrets. Sarah probes Miriam for information about the past, but it is only when Miriam is in the hospital, delirious with fever, that she begs Sarah to find the son she left behind in Latvia. Traveling to the Soviet satellite state, Sarah begins her search with the help of Roger, a charismatic Russian-speaking professor. But as they come closer to the truth, she realizes her quest may have disastrous consequences. A magnificent, emotionally powerful story of family and the lingering devastation of war, The Daughters of the Occupation explores how trauma is passed down in families and illuminates the strength and grace that can be shared by generations.

30 review for Daughters of the Occupation: A Novel of WWII

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    I had no perspective on this occupation during WWll. This is the disturbing and unknown story of the massacre of Rumbala forest in Riga, Latvia, where 26,000 Jews were killed in 2 nights. The Germans invading, then the soviets. The trauma passed on through 3 generations of women. What war does to a person and how it feeds generations until it reaches a generation who can understand who their mothers and grandmothers were. Even though their secrets to protect did more harm than good by creating d I had no perspective on this occupation during WWll. This is the disturbing and unknown story of the massacre of Rumbala forest in Riga, Latvia, where 26,000 Jews were killed in 2 nights. The Germans invading, then the soviets. The trauma passed on through 3 generations of women. What war does to a person and how it feeds generations until it reaches a generation who can understand who their mothers and grandmothers were. Even though their secrets to protect did more harm than good by creating distance only to be bridged with the truth. As horrifying as it was. This is the story of Miriam, the matriarch of the family. Her estrangement with her daughter who has passed and granddaughter, Sarah, who is interested in the past that was kept silent. These stories are always disturbing and tragic. Humanity vanished. Shameful history that will resound for centuries. And shockingly, it wasn’t until 1990 that Latvia became Soviet Free. We can only hope they remain that way as the soviets bombard the Ukraine in its quest for power and control. We must never forget 💔 4⭐️

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    4.5 stars! The Soviet invasion of the Baltic states, including Latvia, changes Miriam’s life forever. She is giving birth to her second child, Monya, when the invasion happens, and the Soviets now occupy Riga, the capital. Miriam and her husband are Jewish, and the Soviets take their business and bank accounts, leaving them destitute. Even worse, the Nazis arrive next and begin rounding up the Jews. Miriam’s housekeeper bravely hides her and the children. Decades later, Sarah’s mother Ilana dies, a 4.5 stars! The Soviet invasion of the Baltic states, including Latvia, changes Miriam’s life forever. She is giving birth to her second child, Monya, when the invasion happens, and the Soviets now occupy Riga, the capital. Miriam and her husband are Jewish, and the Soviets take their business and bank accounts, leaving them destitute. Even worse, the Nazis arrive next and begin rounding up the Jews. Miriam’s housekeeper bravely hides her and the children. Decades later, Sarah’s mother Ilana dies, and her grandmother, Miriam, attends the funeral. Miriam becomes ill and begins speaking of the son she left behind. Sarah searches for her uncle. This was such a fascinating and heartrending story. It’s well-told and emotional all throughout. It shines a light on how families can be separated in times of war, and they aren’t always made whole again. I know this atrocity is happening right now in Ukraine. I enjoyed how the dual timeline added richness to the story. Intergenerational trauma is being highlighted more and more these days, and this book illuminates its importance and validity well. Overall, this is quite the page-turner with immersive storytelling. I received a gifted copy. Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com and instagram: www.instagram.com/tarheelreader

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ingrid

    This is a story based on what happened to the Jews during WWII in Latvia. Very difficult to read all the gruesome details, but I realise we need to know what people went through during that time, especially when it's based on truth. It must have been a difficult book to write too, but I think it's very well done. This is a story based on what happened to the Jews during WWII in Latvia. Very difficult to read all the gruesome details, but I realise we need to know what people went through during that time, especially when it's based on truth. It must have been a difficult book to write too, but I think it's very well done.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Erin Clemence

    Special thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free, electronic ARC of this novel received in exchange for an honest review. Expected publication date: May 3, 2022 Miriam Talan’s life is completely turned upside down one day in 1940, when the Soviet Union invades Latvia. Her husband, Max, is shot dead in front of her and her children and her parents are shot for simply walking too slowly on the street. Now alone, with two young mouths to feed, Miriam sees no choice but to abandon her Special thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free, electronic ARC of this novel received in exchange for an honest review. Expected publication date: May 3, 2022 Miriam Talan’s life is completely turned upside down one day in 1940, when the Soviet Union invades Latvia. Her husband, Max, is shot dead in front of her and her children and her parents are shot for simply walking too slowly on the street. Now alone, with two young mouths to feed, Miriam sees no choice but to abandon her children to her close neighbours who can raise them as non-Jews, sacrificing their religion in exchange for their lives. Miriam hopes to return to them one day, and instead sets out on her own, searching for freedom….. In 1970s Chicago, Sarah is mourning the death of her mother, Illana. Illana kept many secrets, including the fact that Sarah had a grandmother she never knew about. When Sarah seeks out Miriam, she is rejected and it is only through constant persistence that she is able to meet her grandmother, face-to-face. But Miriam, too, is secretive, and soon Sarah is traveling to the Latvian city of Riva, in order to unearth family secrets that may put her life at risk. Shelly Sanders is a Canadian journalist and author, and “Daughters of the Occupation” is not her first novel about the Holocaust and the enslavement of Jews. It is however, a terrifyingly realistic view of intergenerational trauma, and the devastating effects of war and displacement. Perhaps this novel affected me more now, given current events, but I was completely pulled into this novel right from the first page. Miriam and Sarah are powerful and brave characters, each with their own history that has forever changed their lives, and I rooted for both of them. The novel is told in two time frames (1940s and 1970s), across two countries (generally) and from the perspective of two characters (Sarah and Miriam). The novel written in this way helped to form a strong bond with both characters right away, and built up the tension for the plot, as the devastating events from the 1940s affected Sarah’s life in the 1970s. “Daughters of the Occupation” is based on true events, but what makes it unique is the description of World War Two from Latvia’s perspective. A country completely overcome by Soviet rule, yet it is often not discussed prominently in literature. Sanders’ depiction of a Soviet-ruled, Communist country was well-researched and devastatingly honest, making me grateful for all of my small freedoms. I felt every range of emotion in “Daughters”, and although it isn’t a light read, it pulled me in. This is one of those novels that I would recommend to any World War Two fiction reader, with its combination of reality and emotionally heartbreaking events, it won’t easily be forgotten.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tracey

    This is an entertaining, well-written, informative WWII historical fiction novel. It depicts the horrors, heartbreak, and deprivation of the Holocaust, but also the resilience, bravery, courage, hope and love of the survivors. The author's notes and personal insight at the end of the novel are truly appreciated. This is an entertaining, well-written, informative WWII historical fiction novel. It depicts the horrors, heartbreak, and deprivation of the Holocaust, but also the resilience, bravery, courage, hope and love of the survivors. The author's notes and personal insight at the end of the novel are truly appreciated.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Gwen

    “Jews, write and record!” The harrowing true story of the Latvian Holocaust and the lives forever changed. It must have been excruciating difficult to write! It’s just mind boggling and unbelievably sad. The author put her heart into this book and it’s shows! Must read!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Inés Molina

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I am heartbroken after reading this book. A story about family torn apart, and War. After reading this i looked more into Latvian Holocaust. I am happy with how it ended though, Miriam gets closure and Sarah finds herself after looking into her family history. This was an emotional book that gripped me from the first page in 1940. It was well written and had great detail.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Shirley McAllister

    Dangerous Times A heartbreaking story of the occupation of Latvia first by the Soviets, then by the German Nazi's. How the Jewish people were treated horribly by both regimes. The mass murders the concentration camps and the ghettos. Much is written about Poland and Germany but this is the first book I have read about the genocide in Latvia. To tell you the truth I never knew this country existed before reading this book. Although it is a book of historical fiction, the events written about actua Dangerous Times A heartbreaking story of the occupation of Latvia first by the Soviets, then by the German Nazi's. How the Jewish people were treated horribly by both regimes. The mass murders the concentration camps and the ghettos. Much is written about Poland and Germany but this is the first book I have read about the genocide in Latvia. To tell you the truth I never knew this country existed before reading this book. Although it is a book of historical fiction, the events written about actually happened. This is a dual timeline story telling the story of Miriam a young Jewish woman in Latvia under first Soviet, then German occupation. It was not a good time to be Jewish, but Miriam was on her way to the hospital for the birth of her second child a son, Monya. They already have a daughter Ilana. It is also the story of Sarah the daughter of Ilana and granddaughter of Miriam. How she struggles with the loss of her mother and reconnects with her grandmother at her mother's funeral. Alternating back and forth the story is told of Miriam's time in Latvia under both occupations. The cruel treatment of the Jewish under both regimes. It tells how one woman must give up her children to keep them safe and her quest to find them after she miraculously survives sudden death at the hands of the Nazi's. How one child is lost to her and she never forgets him. It goes then to the story of Sarah, reconnecting with her Grandmother after her mother's death and how she goes on a dangerous quest to the Soviet Union to find Monya for her Grandmother and may not make it out alive. The story is interesting, historical, very very sad and heartbreaking and sometimes hard to read. It was interesting to me to know that the facts of this genocide of the Jewish in Latvia is not well known and as far as I know not well published at all. A part of history lost forever and forgotten but should never be. It should never have happened and it must never happen again. Thanks to Shelly Sanders for writing a story bringing this part of history alive, to Harper Perennial and paperbacks for publishing it and to NetGalley for making it available to me.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ann Marie (Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine)

    DAUGHTERS OF THE OCCUPATION is a dual timeline account of the Soviet and Nazi occupations of Latvia. It's an expectedly heartbreaking and complicated read. It's the first fictional account I've read (or heard of) of the occupation in Latvia. There are several scenes which were unusually gutting even for this seasoned reader of WWII fiction and readers should proceed with caution and expect some tears. The writing is pretty straightforward. The author does an excellent job of bringing the landsca DAUGHTERS OF THE OCCUPATION is a dual timeline account of the Soviet and Nazi occupations of Latvia. It's an expectedly heartbreaking and complicated read. It's the first fictional account I've read (or heard of) of the occupation in Latvia. There are several scenes which were unusually gutting even for this seasoned reader of WWII fiction and readers should proceed with caution and expect some tears. The writing is pretty straightforward. The author does an excellent job of bringing the landscape and characters to life. What made this book stand apart from other WWII novels was the way the author so poignantly depicted the complicated generational relationships between the women in Miriam's family as a result of the trauma and difficult decisions made during war time. I found it added a much more thought-provoking and likely realistic element that hasn't been presented in any other WWII novel I can recall. The author's meticulous research is evident through the book. I loved the lengthy and thoughtful author's note which included maps and photos. This book is perfect for connoisseurs of WWII fiction in search of something a little different in terms of geography and long-term familial effect. Many thanks to Harper for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 4.25/5 stars

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Daughters of the Occupation by Shelly Sanders is a wonderful dual timeline, WWII-era historical fiction novel that is inspired by true events surrounding the atrocities that occurred within Latvia during the war. This is such a beautiful and descriptive, yet haunting and devastating novel. The author takes us between the occupation of Latvia starting around 1940, and weaves that story line with the 1970s. This is not just a dual timeline, but also a generational story of one family’s collection Daughters of the Occupation by Shelly Sanders is a wonderful dual timeline, WWII-era historical fiction novel that is inspired by true events surrounding the atrocities that occurred within Latvia during the war. This is such a beautiful and descriptive, yet haunting and devastating novel. The author takes us between the occupation of Latvia starting around 1940, and weaves that story line with the 1970s. This is not just a dual timeline, but also a generational story of one family’s collection of women (and well the family in general) and what they experienced, and how it shaped their existence for generations to come. The strength, the courage, the fear, the loss, but within that, the hope and love exhibited by the full cast of characters: Miriam, Sarah, Ilana, Monya, Roger, etc. Their respective storylines and how each viewpoint and character added to the overall story was just stunning. The dual timeline was nicely done and added a bit of complexity, continuity, mystery, and suspense to the overall plot. A unique book that I will remember for a long time. 5/5 stars Thank you NG and Harper Perennial and Paperbacks for this wonderful arc and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion. I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication on 5/3/22.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    This World War II story takes place in Latvia and it's the first book I've read about the effects of the war in this country. Miriam, and her husband Max have one child, Ilana. Max is a businessman and the family lives well. In 1940, they added a second child to their family, their son Max. On the day that Max is born, the Russians invaded Latvia. The family is Jewish so the Russians confiscated the family house and bank accounts and they are forced to live in a small apartment. The lack of food This World War II story takes place in Latvia and it's the first book I've read about the effects of the war in this country. Miriam, and her husband Max have one child, Ilana. Max is a businessman and the family lives well. In 1940, they added a second child to their family, their son Max. On the day that Max is born, the Russians invaded Latvia. The family is Jewish so the Russians confiscated the family house and bank accounts and they are forced to live in a small apartment. The lack of food and the fear of the brutal Russian soldiers makes Miriam think "Miriam yearned for the day another country's Army would intervene and overpower the barbaric Soviets." She realized soon after the Germans invaded, that they were even worse than the Russians. They killed Max and planned to send the rest of the family to the Jewish ghetto. Miriam begs a non-Jewish friend to take the two children so that they have a chance to survive. The second time line of the story is in Chicago in 1975. Sarah's mother, Ilana, has just died and Sarah and her father are struggling with the loss. Ilana and her mother, Miriam are estranged and Sarah was surprised to see her at the funeral after so many years. After seeing her, Sarah decides to get to know her better to find out more about her mother's life. Miriam is a stubborn and unfriendly woman and doesn't want to see Sarah but finally her attitude begins to soften. When Miriam is in the hospital, she finally begs Sarah to go back to Latvia and find the son (Max) that she left there after the war. So Sarah takes a trip to Latvia, which is under Russian control again and runs into a lot of danger trying to find her uncle. Will she be able to return to Chicago and give her grandmother information about Max or is the Russian regime so restrictive that she can't find out any information? This book was full of terror and fear. First in Latvia during the war and seeing how they Germans treated the Latvian Jews - It's no doubt that people who survived didn't want to talk about those times and relive the pain. Sarah was really tenacious in her quest to find out the family secrets. Her trip to Latvia was also scary. She was helped by a Russian professor who was on the tour with her, but when they snuck away from the tour group several times, they were in constant danger. This is a heartbreaking story about emotions passed down through the family. All three of the women - Miriam, Ilana and Sarah were brave and tenacious during their hardships. It's a book about man's inhumanity to other men but at the end of the day, it's a book about family, love and hope for the future. Even though I read a lot of WWII fiction, this one really affected me and I won't soon forget the characters and their descriptions of life in Latvia both during and after the war. Be sure to read the Author's Notes at the end of the story. Even though the characters are fiction, the author based many of the characters on real people, including some of her family members. She has also included pictures of the ghettos and the forced March that killed so many people. I also spent a lot of time after finishing the novel to goggle the war in Latvia and to learn more about the war. I always love reading a book that teaches me while I'm enjoying reading it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sydney Long

    WWII fiction fans looking for an different perspective on the war, this is one to not be missed. For the inhabitants of Latvia…life would never be the same for many years to come. For those that were Jewish…their lives would be haunted from the memories. It’s 1975 and sarah has unexpectedly lost her mother to a heart attack. They had a strained relationship but sarah never really knew why or understood why her mother seemed so aloof. When her somewhat estranged grandmother, Miriam, shows up at th WWII fiction fans looking for an different perspective on the war, this is one to not be missed. For the inhabitants of Latvia…life would never be the same for many years to come. For those that were Jewish…their lives would be haunted from the memories. It’s 1975 and sarah has unexpectedly lost her mother to a heart attack. They had a strained relationship but sarah never really knew why or understood why her mother seemed so aloof. When her somewhat estranged grandmother, Miriam, shows up at the funeral…Sarah discovers that her life up until now has been nothing but secrets and lies. As we jumped back in time to the war years, we begin to see Miriam’s struggle to survive and what she gave up in order to do so. This story is an incredible history lesson. While the characters are fictional, the happenings of the time are very real. I am unfamiliar with Latvia’s place in WWII going back and forth between a Soviet and a German occupation and back to a Soviet one. It was overwhelming but I’m grateful to have learned something I knew nothing of before. I do, however, wish that Sarah’s mother Ilana was more defined. I was left wanting to know more about her but came up empty handed. This story will tug at your heartstrings, overwhelm you, frighten you and teach you. Definitely add it to your TBR list. Thanks so much to NetGalley, Harper Collins and Shelly Sanders for early access to this page turner.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Erica

    Daughters of the Occupation was a beautiful and haunting book. This is not a story for the faint of heart, as it depicts graphic scenes of the holocaust in Latvia, but it is a story that needs to be told and needs to be read. As time marches forward, the survivors of the Holocaust diminish, and it is important that we, as humanity, remember their lives. While Daughters of the Occupation is a fictional narrative, the people who lived, died, and survived through that time were very real. Through t Daughters of the Occupation was a beautiful and haunting book. This is not a story for the faint of heart, as it depicts graphic scenes of the holocaust in Latvia, but it is a story that needs to be told and needs to be read. As time marches forward, the survivors of the Holocaust diminish, and it is important that we, as humanity, remember their lives. While Daughters of the Occupation is a fictional narrative, the people who lived, died, and survived through that time were very real. Through these stories, we can learn about history that governments have tried to suppress and rewrite, and hopefully, through their stories we can keep this history from repeating. This is a story that I think people should pick up and read, and I know that our historical fiction lovers will grab this book when it is available. Miriam's story could easily become any of our stories if we allow governments to take away our human rights, or the rights of others.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jen Juenke

    I loved Miriams story line. I thought she was so strong, resilient character. I wish that there was more about Ilaynas story and her background. I really thought that the part with Sarah going to Latvia drug on a bit more then needed. The story, while haunting, did not gut punch me like other Holocaust stories do. I think it was because the emotions were after the fact, the witnessing of horrible crimes were glazed over and then reflected upon, instead of actually being right there in the moment I loved Miriams story line. I thought she was so strong, resilient character. I wish that there was more about Ilaynas story and her background. I really thought that the part with Sarah going to Latvia drug on a bit more then needed. The story, while haunting, did not gut punch me like other Holocaust stories do. I think it was because the emotions were after the fact, the witnessing of horrible crimes were glazed over and then reflected upon, instead of actually being right there in the moment. Overall a great book about Latvia's Holocaust, I just wanted more. I wanted to know more about Monya and his present life. How Miriam and Ilyana got out of Latvia. I guess I just didn't want the story to end. Overall, its a great book, that needed a bit more work. Thanks to the publisher and to Netgalley for allowing me this free ARC in exchange for this honest review.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jeannine

    I’m conflicted about this book. The characters go through so much, but the author doesn’t develop them much. So while you’re rooting for Miriam and Sarah to persevere, neither was given especially touching scenes early on to make you like them. Instead, you’re rooting for them because you know they are victims of the Nazis and Soviets, respectively. I felt that Roger’s character presented an unnecessary trauma on top of the pile Sarah deals with. This will be traumatic for many to read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Thomas George Phillips

    The Novel was inspired by true events in the life of Ms. Sanders' family. It is a saga about Jews in Latvia. Ms. Sanders tells the story how Jews were persecuted first by the Soviets then the Germans, and then the Soviets again. She weaves in and out during the intervening years between June 1940 in Latvia and Chicago 1975-76. It was a most compelling story supported by historical facts. The Novel was inspired by true events in the life of Ms. Sanders' family. It is a saga about Jews in Latvia. Ms. Sanders tells the story how Jews were persecuted first by the Soviets then the Germans, and then the Soviets again. She weaves in and out during the intervening years between June 1940 in Latvia and Chicago 1975-76. It was a most compelling story supported by historical facts.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lori Sinsel Harris

    This was a departure from the regular WWII historical fiction books I usually read. I very much liked the change of scene in this one, set in Latvia, first during the Russian occupation and then the Nazis, this story was quite the eye-opener. Mariam is a young housewife in Latvia when the Russians invade and occupy the country. Everything Miriam knows changes with this occupation. Thinking it can get no worse and looking towards the Germans for salvation, their relief when the Nazis overtake the This was a departure from the regular WWII historical fiction books I usually read. I very much liked the change of scene in this one, set in Latvia, first during the Russian occupation and then the Nazis, this story was quite the eye-opener. Mariam is a young housewife in Latvia when the Russians invade and occupy the country. Everything Miriam knows changes with this occupation. Thinking it can get no worse and looking towards the Germans for salvation, their relief when the Nazis overtake the country is short-lived. The laws forbidding Jewish people simple human rights spring up everywhere and when personal tragedy strikes, Miriam is left to survive in a world that wants her and her"type" dead. This is a dual timeline novel, Miriam's granddaughter Sarah travels back to Latvia seeking answers to questions about her grandmother and mother's history after her mother dies suddenly of a heart attack. This novel is well researched and finely written. The reader connects with the characters, you can't help but feel for all Mariam must endure. I felt her fear, and her unrelenting determination to survive. I hadn't known anything about the Russian occupation prior to the Nazis arrival, so this was a new area for me to learn about. Whenever a novel sparks interest and has me doing further research on a subject I am reading about then I consider it a job well done. This one did it, I am now off and running reading about the Soviet occupation and everything it meant to the people of the occupied territories! I would recommend this book to all historical fiction lovers, especially those wishing to broaden their knowledge of Russian and Nazi occupation during WWII. Thank you to the publishers at Harper Perennial and to Net Galley for the free ARC, I am leaving my honest review in return.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Abby Gibbons

    “We can always hope for a miracle, we just can’t rely on one.” This book broke my heart but in the most beautifully written way. Often times I feel like books about the Holocaust can be either very graphic or have a strange feeling of romanticism, but this book had neither. I have never heard of Latavia before or the struggles that the Jews there faced, so this was an eye opening read. It was perfect to have the duality of the stories to show the difference between the generations and their rela “We can always hope for a miracle, we just can’t rely on one.” This book broke my heart but in the most beautifully written way. Often times I feel like books about the Holocaust can be either very graphic or have a strange feeling of romanticism, but this book had neither. I have never heard of Latavia before or the struggles that the Jews there faced, so this was an eye opening read. It was perfect to have the duality of the stories to show the difference between the generations and their relationship to the horrors of war. As we learned more about Miriam’s past at the same time Sarah does, it created such a powerful combination about understanding the past and how generational trauma is real but in some ways necessary to give exposure to what those have gone through before. I think this is a must read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Carol Douglas

    The Jews of Latvia underwent three devastating changes in the World War II era: occupation by the Soviets, attack and occupation by the Nazis, and another occupation by the the Soviets. Of course the Nazi occupation was by far the worst, but under the Soviets many Jews as well as other Latvians were sent to Siberia, summarily deprived of their property, and even killed. Many Latvians, whose news was censored under the Soviets, rejoined when the Germans ousted the Russians. Apparently the Nazis w The Jews of Latvia underwent three devastating changes in the World War II era: occupation by the Soviets, attack and occupation by the Nazis, and another occupation by the the Soviets. Of course the Nazi occupation was by far the worst, but under the Soviets many Jews as well as other Latvians were sent to Siberia, summarily deprived of their property, and even killed. Many Latvians, whose news was censored under the Soviets, rejoined when the Germans ousted the Russians. Apparently the Nazis won over many Latvians with their propaganda claiming that Jews were Communists and were responsible for the Soviets' wrongs. Young Jewish men were forced to dig up bodies of Latvians murdered by the Soviets and photographed with the corpses, and the Nazies claimed that those Jews were the murderers. I knew next to nothing about the history of Latvia. This moving novel shifts between Sarah, a young woman in Chicago in the '70s who does not know that her mother was Jewish, and the experiences of her grandmother in Latvia in the '40s. When Sarah's mother dies, Sarah begins to get to know her grandmother, Miriam, who was estranged from Sarah's mother. Miriam is reluctant to tell Sarah the family history that her mother has hidden. But Sarah keeps pressing. This is a powerful book that tells as much about the power of love as the power of hideous violence.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    What a story. This is definitely in my top five favorite books I have read this year. It’s uncommon for me to come across a WWII historical fiction novel set outside England or France. Let alone depicting the Holocaust outside of Germany or Poland. This telling of Soviet and Nazi takeover in Latvia was fascinating and absolutely heartbreaking. This dual timeline novel flips back and forth between Miriam in 1940 Riga, Latvia and her granddaughter, Sarah, in 1975 Chicago. The story begins with the What a story. This is definitely in my top five favorite books I have read this year. It’s uncommon for me to come across a WWII historical fiction novel set outside England or France. Let alone depicting the Holocaust outside of Germany or Poland. This telling of Soviet and Nazi takeover in Latvia was fascinating and absolutely heartbreaking. This dual timeline novel flips back and forth between Miriam in 1940 Riga, Latvia and her granddaughter, Sarah, in 1975 Chicago. The story begins with the sudden loss of Sarah’s mother, Ilana, leaving her with a lot of unanswered questions about her family history. Unsure why her grandmother and mother strained their relationship growing up, Sarah pursues rekindling her relationship with her grandmother, Miriam, in order to find answers to their past. As each chapter unfolds, we discover the gripping story of how Miriam and Ilana’s experiences shaped them into new people post war. I felt very connected to Miriam and Sarah through the descriptions written in this book. Miriam’s chapters were definitely difficult to read at times, but so tastefully composed in illustrating the realities what Jews faced during that time that is absolutely emotionally gut-wrenching. These historically true accounts should never be forgotten. Ultimately, this novel is a story of survival with underlying themes of loss, sacrifice, hope, family and generational heritage. One of the best books I’ve read in a long time that will definitely stick with me. Thank you to NetGalley, Harper Paperbacks, and Shelly Sanders for an ebook ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Books

    I love historical fiction based on true stories and that is what this book is. Three generations of very strong women starting in WWII, Latvia. This story is full of heartbreak, resilience, sacrifice, and what are you willing to do to survive. Shelly Sanders has beautifully portrayed this real family in such a way that you live the moments with them. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Thank you to #netgalley and #harperperennialandharperpaperbacks for allowing me to read the eARC of this I love historical fiction based on true stories and that is what this book is. Three generations of very strong women starting in WWII, Latvia. This story is full of heartbreak, resilience, sacrifice, and what are you willing to do to survive. Shelly Sanders has beautifully portrayed this real family in such a way that you live the moments with them. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Thank you to #netgalley and #harperperennialandharperpaperbacks for allowing me to read the eARC of this book. All opinions expressed above are my own.

  22. 5 out of 5

    The Page Ladies

    1940 While Max and Miriam Talan welcome their second son Max into the world the Soviets invade the Baltic state of Latvia and occupy the capital city of Riga. Because they are Jewish the Soviets confiscate their business, the family home and bank accounts leaving them with nothing. Then, the Nazis arrive. They kill Max and begin to round up Jews. Fearing for her newborn son and her young daughter, Ilana, Miriam asks her loyal housekeeper to hide them and conceal their Jewish roots to keep them sa 1940 While Max and Miriam Talan welcome their second son Max into the world the Soviets invade the Baltic state of Latvia and occupy the capital city of Riga. Because they are Jewish the Soviets confiscate their business, the family home and bank accounts leaving them with nothing. Then, the Nazis arrive. They kill Max and begin to round up Jews. Fearing for her newborn son and her young daughter, Ilana, Miriam asks her loyal housekeeper to hide them and conceal their Jewish roots to keep them safe until the savagery ends. Three decades later While attending the funeral for her mother's death, twenty four year old Sarah Byrne's estranged grandmother Miriam opens the door to shocking family secrets. Sarah probes Miriam for information about the past, but it is only when Miriam is in the hospital, delirious with fever, that she begs Sarah to find the son she left behind in Latvia. With the help of Roger, a charismatic Russian speaking professor, Sarah travels to the Soviet satellite state, and begins her search. But as they come closer to the truth, she realizes her quest may have disastrous consequences. This was such a beautiful story, devastating but descriptive. It has two timelines: the 1940s and the 70s. The story is told in a way that connects the reader to the main characters Sarah and Miriam all the while building suspense for the plot. Miriam was a strong and resilient character but I found myself rooting for both characters. Being able to read about the past and following along as Sarah discovers the truth is quite the combination. The emotions from both timelines are heartbreaking. A wonderful story with descriptive writing that brings a time many may not know about to life right before your eyes0!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mariam Salahudeen

    This is the first time I have read a book on the Latvian side of the holocaust. It was heartbreaking reading about the suffering the Jewish people underwent simply for being who they are. It was also a reminder as to how the aftermath of war still carries on heavily in the minds of the survivors. I appreciate the book for highlighting these events but one less star because I found the relationship between Sarah and Roger unconvincing.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Natalie Tanner

    Daughters of the Occupation was my book club’s choice for this month. I started reading it totally blind: hadn’t even read the synopsis. And it was good! The beginning was slow, but once I hit 35% I flew through the rest. I found the main character’s naivety a little annoying towards the end, but cest la vie. I’m glad we’re starting to see more stories told about Soviet territories. Side bar: being “half-Jewish” isn’t really a thing. I don’t know if it was supposed to be a reflection of a charact Daughters of the Occupation was my book club’s choice for this month. I started reading it totally blind: hadn’t even read the synopsis. And it was good! The beginning was slow, but once I hit 35% I flew through the rest. I found the main character’s naivety a little annoying towards the end, but cest la vie. I’m glad we’re starting to see more stories told about Soviet territories. Side bar: being “half-Jewish” isn’t really a thing. I don’t know if it was supposed to be a reflection of a character’s ignorance the culture, but it was weird to see that term mentioned a few times.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    I hesitate to give a book about such a heavy subject less than 5 stars. However, I just can't with this one. While the author clearly researched the history of the Jewish community in Riga, her writing style cannot be ignored. The long winded, over the top descriptions of everything was just too much. She needs a better editor. Seriously, a book about the Holocaust does not need a paragraph long description of the cheese on a piece of pizza that is being eaten. Focus on the history, not the over I hesitate to give a book about such a heavy subject less than 5 stars. However, I just can't with this one. While the author clearly researched the history of the Jewish community in Riga, her writing style cannot be ignored. The long winded, over the top descriptions of everything was just too much. She needs a better editor. Seriously, a book about the Holocaust does not need a paragraph long description of the cheese on a piece of pizza that is being eaten. Focus on the history, not the over the top descriptions of absolutely everything in the book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Heather Thorup

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Perennial for the ARC. This book caught my eye because it's about another part of WWII history that I was unfamiliar with, the Latvian Holocaust. The book has a dual timeline that keeps the book going and interesting. In 1940, we start with Miriam in Riga. She gives birth to her second child literally the same day that Soviets invade Latvia and take control of Riga, its capital city. Because their family is Jewish, first their business is taken away and their ho Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Perennial for the ARC. This book caught my eye because it's about another part of WWII history that I was unfamiliar with, the Latvian Holocaust. The book has a dual timeline that keeps the book going and interesting. In 1940, we start with Miriam in Riga. She gives birth to her second child literally the same day that Soviets invade Latvia and take control of Riga, its capital city. Because their family is Jewish, first their business is taken away and their home. Then the Nazis arrive and Miriam's husband is killed. Things get worse for the Jews and Miriam makes the heartbreaking choice to leave her children with her longtime housekeeper and nanny. She leaves with her parents, forced to move into The Ghetto. Conditions are appalling, starvation and random killings constantly. Miriam and her parents have only been there a short while when they're forced to march. Her mother is too weak to walk and is shot with her dad in quick succession. Miriam continues on in shock because it's her only choice. She has learned to keep her feelings buried to survive. What follows is the massacre at Rumbalu forest. Miriam miraculously survives and scavenges on what she can find while laying low. Eventually she finds help and is hidden along with other Jews for 10 months until Latvia was liberated by the Soviets. It's appalling when she's questioned by the KGB and they don't believe her words. They want to rewrite history by accusing the Jews of working with the people who murdered them. Nazis blamed the Jews for killing Latvians that the Soviets had executed. Miriam finds her daughter Ilana and they reunite soberly because her son Monya was given away and adopted out of necessity and fear. It's been 3 years since Miriam was gone. They try looking for Monya but eventually travel to America through the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. The rest of Miriam's story is played out with her granddaughter Sarah. Sarah lives in Chicago in the 70s. She just lost her mother Ilana. Her mother was a complicated woman, prone to keeping everything to herself and she had a strained relationship with her mother, Miriam. Sarah tries to reunite with her grandmother Miriam and finds her to be quite stubborn and distant. Sarah is determined to find out why her mother and grandmother didn't have a relationship. She slowly breaks down Miriam's walls and finds out she is Jewish! She was raised Lutheran and had no idea. She discovers bits of her grandmother's past in Liga and that her son Monya has been missing this whole time. Sarah decides to take a risk and travel to the Soviet Union. Through complications, briberies and a lucky fellow traveler, Sarah is successful at locating her uncle Monya. In Liga, things are censored. The news is only what they want you to hear. It's a Communist country and the people seem miserable. The tourists can only take pictures of certain things. There are so many rules about religion and everything that shortly after finding Monya, Sarah is imprisoned by the KGB. She is lucky to be sent directly home where she tells her Grandmother the good news. She found Monya! Yes, he was adopted. No he's not a practicing Jew. His name has changed. Miriam seems pleased but also saddened by the news because he isn't free. And he didn't believe what Sarah told him about his real family. Through the dual timelines, I was struck by the stubborn but strong nature of each woman. Miriam, Ilana and Sarah. We don't get to understand much of Ilana's life other than part of her childhood but we see similarities in how the War changed things. It changed and forever altered lives. In the words of Simon Dubnow, "Jews, write and record."

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Rivenbark

    A dual timeline novel following Miriam in 1940s Lativa and her granddaughter, Sarah, in 1970s Chicago. The book starts with the day the Soviets invaded Latvia. Miriam's story goes through her experiences living under Soviet and Nazi occupation as a Jew and then her life after the war. Sarah's story starts in 1975 in Chicago where she is mourning the untimely death of her mother and sees her estranged grandmother, Miriam, for the first time in years. This opens the door to some shocking family se A dual timeline novel following Miriam in 1940s Lativa and her granddaughter, Sarah, in 1970s Chicago. The book starts with the day the Soviets invaded Latvia. Miriam's story goes through her experiences living under Soviet and Nazi occupation as a Jew and then her life after the war. Sarah's story starts in 1975 in Chicago where she is mourning the untimely death of her mother and sees her estranged grandmother, Miriam, for the first time in years. This opens the door to some shocking family secrets and she begins to question Miriam about her past. Through Sarah's search for answers, she takes a trip behind the iron curtain and discovers her quest my have dire consequences. Inspired by true events in WWII Latvia. Absolutely heartbreaking to read about the decisions that families had to make during those times and the trauma they lived with and passed down from their generation to the next. If you enjoy historical fiction, add this book to your TBR! *Thanks to Harper & Goodreads for my ARC!*

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Thank you to Harper Paperbacks and Goodreads for the copy of Daughters of the Occupation: A Novel of WWII by Shelly Sanders. It is the mid seventies and Sarah has just lost her mom Ilana to a sudden heart attack and is reaching out to her maternal grandmother, Miriam, to learn more about her mother, the secrets she kept and to find out why her mother and grandmother were estranged from one another. Presented in dual time lines we simultaneously learn about Miriam's past and what is was like to b Thank you to Harper Paperbacks and Goodreads for the copy of Daughters of the Occupation: A Novel of WWII by Shelly Sanders. It is the mid seventies and Sarah has just lost her mom Ilana to a sudden heart attack and is reaching out to her maternal grandmother, Miriam, to learn more about her mother, the secrets she kept and to find out why her mother and grandmother were estranged from one another. Presented in dual time lines we simultaneously learn about Miriam's past and what is was like to be Jewish in Latvia during World War II. The horrors of what Miriam saw and experienced were atrocious and we start to understand why Miriam is the way she is in the present. While I enjoyed this book I feel it was often rushed and fell short in fully exploring and explaining both Miriam's and Sarah's journeys. The conclusion felt the most rushed and I think there were a lot of important questions that were never fully addressed. All in all, a good read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Lepri

    "Daughters of the Occupation" by Shelly Sanders Harper Paperbacks May 3, 2022 10-0063226669 400 pages Historical Fiction This highly emotional novel includes two narratives combined in one, commencing in June 1940 in Riga, Latvia. Miriam Talan, a young Jewish woman married to Max, a dentist and the mother of Ilana, is happy with her life. Not rich, but neither poor, Miriam's life quickly changes after giving birth to her son Monya. Their country is invaded by the Russians, destroying property and murd "Daughters of the Occupation" by Shelly Sanders Harper Paperbacks May 3, 2022 10-0063226669 400 pages Historical Fiction This highly emotional novel includes two narratives combined in one, commencing in June 1940 in Riga, Latvia. Miriam Talan, a young Jewish woman married to Max, a dentist and the mother of Ilana, is happy with her life. Not rich, but neither poor, Miriam's life quickly changes after giving birth to her son Monya. Their country is invaded by the Russians, destroying property and murdering innocent people. Targeted for being Jewish, when Max's business is confiscated, he suggests they flee from their home, but Miriam's parents state the borders are closed, and with no assets to leave, they have no choice but to stay put and hope this senseless war will end soon. In April of the following year, three members of the Soviet government arrive at the Talan home. They inform Miriam she can pack only these meager belongings: one bed, two sheets, two plates and spoons, three pairs of shoes, two coats, two hats, and books only related to their work and her wedding ring. Then they relocate the family to a damp and decrepit flat which is to be their new residence. All their assets are seized, and they are left to live in squalor. Before long, the Nazis and the Russians band together and then sequester the Jews leading them to slaughter. Max is murdered in front of Miriam, elevating her fears for her family. She knows they should run, but where can they go with no money and a target on their heads just because of their religion? Thankfully, Miriam's long-time Christian housekeeper, Gutte, agrees to take Ilana and Monya and raise them as hers until the war is over. Miriam is devastated by her beloved husband's death, and it breaks her heart more to part with her children, yet she realizes this is the only way to keep them safe and alive. We segue to November 1975, when Sarah Byrne is attending her mother's funeral. Distraught over her loss, Sarah is shocked when confronted by a woman with haunting green eyes and an uncanny resemblance to her mother: "Miriam." "Her grandmother's remarkable likeness to her mother made the hairs on the back of Sarah's neck bristle. Sarah stared at Miriam, flustered. Afraid to look away for fear she'd vanish. Everything around them receded to a dull hum. Sarah hadn't seen Miriam in years because Miriam and her mother had been estranged, though Sarah had no idea why. Her mother would change the subject every time Miriam's name was mentioned, even when Sarah pushed hard, reminding her Miriam was her only living grandparent. You don't need that woman in your life, her mother had responded in a barbed voice leaving no room for argument." Sarah tries to establish contact with her grandmother by taking her hand, but Miriam wrenches free, stating this is not what her daughter wanted, then quickly leaves. This action makes Sarah more determined to know Miriam, needing to learn what happened between her and her mother. But Miriam, an irascible older woman, wants no part of Sarah, or so she says. However, Sarah will not be deterred in her efforts to know her. Her only family is her father, Paul, and now Miriam. Met with indifference, She goes to Miriam's apartment, and he soon notices her warming up as her visits become more frequent. However, she refuses to discuss Sarah's mother and their past. Little by little, Miriam tells her story in separate chapters stating the horrors she and her family faced during the war. It is reprehensible what the Jewish citizens of Latvia endured and the cruelty forced on them. Once living a reasonably prosperous life, they were sent to Siberia, starved, stripped of their belongings, and murdered. Yet, somehow Miriam managed to endure. Considered dead and thrown in a pit with others who are slaughtered, Miriam lies among the deceased until the enemy leaves when she manages to crawl out and flee. For the next three years, she lives hand to foot, hiding in barns, foraging for food, and the kindness of a few with her primary goal of returning to her children. Miriam becomes ill and is hospitalized, where she reveals some of her past to Sarah, telling her about Monya, the uncle Sarah never knew she had. Latvia, still under Soviet rule in 1976, does not detain Sarah from going there to find her uncle to offer a semblance of peace to Miriam before she passes. Even though thirty-plus years have passed, Sarah is subject to intense investigation, but with the help of Roger, a Russian-speaking professor man she met on her flight, he assists her in her pursuit "Daughters of the Occupation" contains fictionalized scenarios of actual events during that time. A highly emotional tale, charged with heartbreak and suffering, yet with perseverance, persistence, and a strong will to survive, this is a read that will stay with one long after the last page is turned.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jade

    In my opinion the cover of this book seems to portray more of romantic war novel, but it is definitely NOT that type of novel, so don’t let the cover put you off. Daughters of the Occupation is a deeply researched, terrifying, and well-written account of what it was like to be Jewish in Latvia during WW2. While the novel is historical fiction, it is heavily based on fact, and Shelly Sanders does an amazing job recounting the horrific actions of the Nazis in Latvia. There are many books highlight In my opinion the cover of this book seems to portray more of romantic war novel, but it is definitely NOT that type of novel, so don’t let the cover put you off. Daughters of the Occupation is a deeply researched, terrifying, and well-written account of what it was like to be Jewish in Latvia during WW2. While the novel is historical fiction, it is heavily based on fact, and Shelly Sanders does an amazing job recounting the horrific actions of the Nazis in Latvia. There are many books highlighting the atrocities in other countries, but this is the first time that I have read more about the recent history of Latvia, and I could not put this book down. Jumping between Sarah in the mid 1970’s, and her grandmother Miriam, during the WW2 years, we learn about the awful choices Miriam had to make in order to survive, and how deep trauma and secrets can create rifts that may not be able to be healed, despite similar lived experiences. I really loved how true to life Sanders’ descriptions are: especially as she delves behind the scenes in Soviet Latvia. This is such a good book about WW2 in Latvia, and hopefully it will help more people understand better what happened in these Soviet-occupied countries before and after WW2.

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