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The Memory Keeper of Kyiv

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Perfect for fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz and The Beekeeper of Aleppo. In the 1930s, Stalin’s activists marched through the Soviet Union, espousing the greatness of collective farming. It was the first step in creating a man-made famine that, in Ukraine, stole almost 4 million lives. Inspired by the history the world forgot, and the Russian government denies, Erin Litt Perfect for fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz and The Beekeeper of Aleppo. In the 1930s, Stalin’s activists marched through the Soviet Union, espousing the greatness of collective farming. It was the first step in creating a man-made famine that, in Ukraine, stole almost 4 million lives. Inspired by the history the world forgot, and the Russian government denies, Erin Litteken reimagines their story. In 1929, Katya is 16 years old, surrounded by family and in love with the boy next door. When Stalin’s activists arrive in her village, it’s just a few, a little pressure to join the collective. But soon neighbors disappear, those who speak out are never seen again and every new day is uncertain. Resistance has a price, and as desperate hunger grips the countryside, survival seems more a dream than a possibility. But, even in the darkest times, love beckons. Seventy years later, a young widow discovers her grandmother’s journal, one that will reveal the long-buried secrets of her family’s haunted past. This is a story of the resilience of the human spirit, the love that sees us through our darkest hours and the true horror of what happened during the Holodomor. "I never imagined the release of my novel on a past oppression of the Ukrainian people would coincide with such a parallel tragedy." Erin Litteken A share of proceeds will be donated to DEC's Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. May we never forget, lest history repeat itself.


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Perfect for fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz and The Beekeeper of Aleppo. In the 1930s, Stalin’s activists marched through the Soviet Union, espousing the greatness of collective farming. It was the first step in creating a man-made famine that, in Ukraine, stole almost 4 million lives. Inspired by the history the world forgot, and the Russian government denies, Erin Litt Perfect for fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz and The Beekeeper of Aleppo. In the 1930s, Stalin’s activists marched through the Soviet Union, espousing the greatness of collective farming. It was the first step in creating a man-made famine that, in Ukraine, stole almost 4 million lives. Inspired by the history the world forgot, and the Russian government denies, Erin Litteken reimagines their story. In 1929, Katya is 16 years old, surrounded by family and in love with the boy next door. When Stalin’s activists arrive in her village, it’s just a few, a little pressure to join the collective. But soon neighbors disappear, those who speak out are never seen again and every new day is uncertain. Resistance has a price, and as desperate hunger grips the countryside, survival seems more a dream than a possibility. But, even in the darkest times, love beckons. Seventy years later, a young widow discovers her grandmother’s journal, one that will reveal the long-buried secrets of her family’s haunted past. This is a story of the resilience of the human spirit, the love that sees us through our darkest hours and the true horror of what happened during the Holodomor. "I never imagined the release of my novel on a past oppression of the Ukrainian people would coincide with such a parallel tragedy." Erin Litteken A share of proceeds will be donated to DEC's Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. May we never forget, lest history repeat itself.

30 review for The Memory Keeper of Kyiv

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kay

    3.5 ⭐ The resilience of the human spirit. Holodomor, Ukrainian for hunger and death. The manmade famine swept across Ukraine from 1932 to 33. It killed close to 10 million. Stalin's communist regime forced Ukrainian into collective farming; land, produce, livestock, and farming equipment were considered state's property and were collected to be taken away. Wealthy farmers were dubbed "kulaks" and were sent to Siberia. Soviet volunteer Activists and Ukrainian Young Pioneers were indoctrinated. They 3.5 ⭐ The resilience of the human spirit. Holodomor, Ukrainian for hunger and death. The manmade famine swept across Ukraine from 1932 to 33. It killed close to 10 million. Stalin's communist regime forced Ukrainian into collective farming; land, produce, livestock, and farming equipment were considered state's property and were collected to be taken away. Wealthy farmers were dubbed "kulaks" and were sent to Siberia. Soviet volunteer Activists and Ukrainian Young Pioneers were indoctrinated. They reported on the locals including their own families. Food if found was taken away with the punishment of being deported or executed. The Memory Keeper of Kyiv is told in a dual timeline fashion with alternating PoVs; Katya in the 1930s in Tetiiv Raion of the Kyiv Region and Cassie, 2004 in Illinois. This story is not for the faint of heart. It is a heart-wrenching story of starvation, loss, and death. Both Katya and Cassie experienced varying degrees of loss, but they learn to move forward in life and make the best of it. I have to admit I enjoy the past more with a constant sense of foreboding. The contemporary time was fine in the beginning but I felt it was holding back the pace when the past story really took off. I truly enjoy learning and admire Ukrainian tradition and culture. This is an excellent story that portrays strength and courage. The characters in the past are complex, authentic, and extraordinary.🌻 Thank you to Boldwood Books and NG for this ARC. Available May 16, 2022!

  2. 4 out of 5

    RoshReviews

    In a Nutshell: A historical timeline that is almost painful to read because of its brutal depiction of the realities of Ukrainian life under Stalin’s collectivization scheme. The contemporary timeline is decent but pales in comparison. Still, I would count this as a must-read book. Story: Wisconsin, 2004. Ever since Cassie’s husband died in a road accident 14 months ago, her five year old daughter Birdie and she have been struggling to let go of their grief. When Grandma Bobby begins suffering f In a Nutshell: A historical timeline that is almost painful to read because of its brutal depiction of the realities of Ukrainian life under Stalin’s collectivization scheme. The contemporary timeline is decent but pales in comparison. Still, I would count this as a must-read book. Story: Wisconsin, 2004. Ever since Cassie’s husband died in a road accident 14 months ago, her five year old daughter Birdie and she have been struggling to let go of their grief. When Grandma Bobby begins suffering from memory issues, Cassie’s mom decides that it would be best for Cassie and Birdie to shift into Bobby’s house for a mutual support. Here, Cassie discovers a journal written in Ukrainian, which seems to contain some secrets of the past. Ukraine, 1930. Sixteen year old Katya has a lot to look forward to in life. She is part of a happy family and has a childhood sweetheart Pavlo right next door. But when Stalin’s activists come to their village and demand that everyone join the initiative of collective farming, the future suddenly doesn’t look so bright. Both the timelines are written in a limited third person perspective. Where the book worked for me: 💐 I have never read any book covering the topic of the ‘Holodomor’, the manmade famine that resulted in the loss of almost 4 million Ukrainian lives during the 1930s. That itself should be the biggest reason to go for this book. It reveals unheard-of details of a travesty that has never been highlighted. There were so many elements that felt like exaggerations because I simply couldn’t believe humans could do something as low. But the author’s note and her sources show that every despicable event is true. Kudos to her research. 💐 There are many parallels between the historical and the contemporary timelines such as handling grief and finding love after loss. The stories work well in sync. 💐 Despite the length and the heavy topic, it is a pretty fast-paced book. 💐 The characters in the 1930 timeline are well-carved and gutsy. Each of them creates an impact for various reasons. Of the 2004 characters, Birdie was the sweetest. 💐 I loved the glimpse provided into Ukrainian traditions and rituals. The book didn’t use Ukraine for the sake of it but actually incorporated its people, its culture and its values into the storyline. This is how places must be used in historical stories. 💐 Loved the author’s note. I was amazed to see how well she has incorporated her grandma’s Ukrainian roots in the historical timeline. There is a touch of authenticity to the entire story and it shows how well the content has been researched. Where the book could have worked better for me: ⚠ The contemporary timeline, while interesting, is very drab in comparison to the past story. It is too predictable. The characters are pretty one-dimensional. I also found it very farfetched that Cassie’s family, especially her mom, knew zilch about their Ukrainian heritage. Cassie seemed quite incapable of understanding even the most obvious of connections while the rest of us could decode the clues from a mile away. ⚠ The ending felt rushed. After a long dilly-dallying by Cassie wondering about the past, the climax felt like it covered too much within a single chapter. ⚠ I didn’t like the romantic angle in the 2004 storyline, despite the swoon-worthy hero. It felt too sudden, and it didn’t add anything to the story. Despite the issues I had with the modern timeline, the historical part of the book was enough for me to be a satisfied reader. (In fact, the book might have worked better as a historical story focussing only on the Holodomor instead of having the dual narrative.) It is a great debut work and I will surely love to read more by this author. It is but obvious to connect this book with the situation in Ukraine right now. It is quite surreal, almost absurd that this book has come out in a year where history seems to be repeating itself. Wonder when leaders will learn from past mistakes and focus more on living in harmony than on satisfying their hunger for more power and control. In solidarity with the people of Ukraine, the publishers of this book, Boldwood Books, will donate a share of their proceeds to the DEC's Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. I appreciate them for this gesture. Definitely recommended to historical fiction fans. 4.25 stars. Note: If you are in a depressed state of mind, please stay away from the book until you are in a stronger mental headspace. There are many triggering events in the 1930s timeline. While most of the extreme triggers aren’t detailed out directly, what’s happening behind the screen is enough to induce nightmares. My thanks to Boldwood Books and NetGalley for the DRC of “The Memory Keeper of Kyiv”. This review is voluntary and contains my honest opinion about the book. *********************** Join me on the Facebook group, Readers Forever! , for more reviews, book-related discussions and fun.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Erin Litteken

    Dear Readers, The seeds of this story took root in my mind even before Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, and now the world is watching in horror as Russia continues its brutal attack on Ukraine – its cities, its civilians, its future. I never imagined the release of my novel on a past assault of the Ukrainian people would coincide with such a parallel tragedy. Ukrainians today are fighting for their country with a strength and tenacity that has captivated the world, but it is impossible to deny that h Dear Readers, The seeds of this story took root in my mind even before Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, and now the world is watching in horror as Russia continues its brutal attack on Ukraine – its cities, its civilians, its future. I never imagined the release of my novel on a past assault of the Ukrainian people would coincide with such a parallel tragedy. Ukrainians today are fighting for their country with a strength and tenacity that has captivated the world, but it is impossible to deny that history is repeating itself. It’s horrifying, and we must do better. As the granddaughter of a Ukrainian refugee from WW2, the poignancy of this war devastates me. While we can’t change history, we can all learn from it and do something to help the Ukrainian people today. I’m so pleased that my publisher, Boldwood Books, is donating a share of the proceeds of this novel to DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. I couldn’t be happier to be a part of that effort. My heart goes out to the brave Ukrainians defending their country, their culture, and their lives, both then and now. Slava Ukrayini!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Taury

    The Memory Keeper of Kyiv by Erin Litteken. This book is wonderful. It is the story of a Ukranian family’s survival of the Holodomor, Stalin forced starvation of Ukrainians. This ls something i never knew, heard nothing about. I hate seeing the Ukraine being a subject of terror and pulled apart by war once again.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Marquise

    The timing of this novel couldn't be more unfortunate yet appropriate at the same time. Unfortunate because it shows, once again, that history repeats in rough patterns; and appropriate because as I've said before, to understand what's at stake for Ukraine in her current war with Russia, you have to go eight decades back to the Holodomor, and although this is fictional, it does help with that, and hopefully will entice readers to consult non-fiction books on the famine, such as Anne Applebaum's The timing of this novel couldn't be more unfortunate yet appropriate at the same time. Unfortunate because it shows, once again, that history repeats in rough patterns; and appropriate because as I've said before, to understand what's at stake for Ukraine in her current war with Russia, you have to go eight decades back to the Holodomor, and although this is fictional, it does help with that, and hopefully will entice readers to consult non-fiction books on the famine, such as Anne Applebaum's Red Famine, which author Erin Litteken also recommends in the afterword. This is the story of Katya Shevchenko, an Ukrainian peasant girl full of vitality and dreams for the future, whose dreams are crushed when Stalin decided to collectivise the whole of the farmland in the country by force, arresting, deporting, executing, and maliciously starving all that oppose it. Katya's family has a modest but prosperous farm that produces enough for them to live without major worries, until they're slowly deprived of it by abusive grain quotas, extremely high taxes, the arrest of their father and other family members, and murders all around of friends and neighbours, and finally having the farm collectivised. Katya, her mother, her sister, her husband and her brother-in-law are then forced to survive by eating anything they can forage or catch, even rats, worms, and crows, suffering horribly for years until there's only Katya and her husband left, who somehow manage to escape once WWII breaks out and eventually reach America. Once there, in her last months of life she tells her story to her granddaughter so it's not lost to time. Personally, I don't like dual-timeline narration; one timeline always drags the other timeline down and it's usually the story set in the past that suffers. It's no different here: if you read only the chapters with Katya's POV in Ukraine, the story is great, touchingly told, and very harrowing because the suffering is immense and unbearable. But the parallel present-day story of Cassie, her granddaughter, is a drag. Cassie isn't interesting as a character, and she can be rather stupid at times; she never puts two and two together that the Holodomor was probably what her grandma experienced that she doesn't want to talk about, and even more incredibly, (view spoiler)[she doesn't even realise Kolya is her grandpa and has to have it mansplained by her new lover. (hide spoiler)] She's the complete opposite of Katya, and although I do get she's in mourning, her pity party can get on your nerves, especially compared to Katya's experiences that are far worse but devoid of self-pity. A drag, she is. Ideally, I think there should've been only the Holodomor storyline, which is what's going to sell this book and what the title advertises. If you try the exercise of reading only Katya's POVs and skip Cassie's, and you'll see my point. But the Holodomor storyline would also have benefited from being more elaborated on, because, frankly, it's too contained. For the most part, it reads like the whole of Ukraine is the Shevchenkos' farm, and for many chapters the story happens within the four walls of Katya & Kolya's house. You never get a sense of the time and place and events like that. There's a peasant rebellion in which one of the main characters fights, but we never see or hear of it. We don't see much if anything of the collective farm, and even less of things around the oblast. There are no characters outside Katya's circle, and they all come and go as the plot demands like extras in a film. We don't really see the man-made famine unfolding either, it's all told to us, sometimes infodumped; some passages read like they were directly taken from Applebaum's book, I'd say, as that book is still fresh in my memory. And so on. It's a very narrow glimpse into Ukraine, you barely see the typical sunflowers and a slice of blue sky, and at times Katya speaks like a Midwesterner than a girl from the Ukrainian countryside. So, what I'm saying is that there's not much authenticity conveyed. I'm not even sure of why exactly it's entitled "The Memory Keeper of Kyiv," because Katya is not in Kyiv at all, her village is in another oblast. Probably a publicity trick to take advantage of Ukraine being in the news right now? Whatever the case, I think it's a good effort to increase awareness of the tragedy that was the Ukrainian famine, and I liked the story of Katya. I don't recall seeing any other novels with this topic, and for that alone, it's a very important book that should be read now. I received an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Clif Hostetler

    This novel's unique feature is to include a fictional account of the 1930s Ukrainian Holodomor. The book’s story alternates between two separate narrative chains. The first narrative takes place in the early 2000s in the USA and features a grieving widow who together with her young daughter is having difficulty recovering from the death of her husband from a car accident that occurred about a year earlier. The second narrative takes place in the early 1930s Ukraine where a young bride faces trau This novel's unique feature is to include a fictional account of the 1930s Ukrainian Holodomor. The book’s story alternates between two separate narrative chains. The first narrative takes place in the early 2000s in the USA and features a grieving widow who together with her young daughter is having difficulty recovering from the death of her husband from a car accident that occurred about a year earlier. The second narrative takes place in the early 1930s Ukraine where a young bride faces trauma and shock when her family’s way of life is brutally changed during the collectivization of their rural village. Seventy years later that Ukrainian bride is now the grandmother of the young grieving American widow. For many years the grandmother has repressed the traumatic memories of her past and has withheld any mention of it to her family. But now this aging grandmother is developing symptoms of dementia, and those memories from long ago are beginning to arise. Furthermore, she perceives that her granddaughter and great granddaughter could benefit by learning about her experience recovering from trauma all those many years ago. The grieving widow of the early 2000s is now living with her grandmother in order to help protect her from possible self harm caused by the on-coming signs of dementia. Consequently, she becomes aware of her grandmother’s journal written in Ukrainian many years earlier. With assistance from a friend the journal is translated into English which provides the needed inspiration for the young widow to look to—and live for—the future.

 There is a first love, a lost love, and a new love in both narrative chains, so the book can be classified as a bitter-sweet romance. Its plain and direct vernacular can also put it in the young adult category, which of course can be enjoyed by older adults as well. The author includes occasional references to Ukrainian folk traditions, food, and art so the book is educational in many ways. However, the book’s most unique feature is to provide a personal up close description of life, death, and love in Ukraine during the 1930s. The part of the story that takes place in Ukraine contains repeating ominous foreboding that the already bad events and conditions will continue to get even worse. For a hint about what takes place, check out this spoiler: (view spoiler)[The following description of the early 1930s Ukraine is excerpted from the nonfiction history book The Gates of Europe, by Serhii Plokhy. Altogether, close to 4 million people perished in Ukraine as a result of the famine, more than decimating the country—every eighth person succumbed to hunger between 1932 and 1934. Portions of this story will bring you to tears. However, the book also contains romance and parent-child love which will make you feel good. Late in the book the story contains a poignant heart warming communication between great-grandmother and great-granddaughter. And the very end of the Epilogue contains a final surprise. (hide spoiler)] The Author's Note at the end of the book describes some interesting parallels between her own family's history and the book's story. Here's a link to a message from the Author: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Marsha

    Putin's current war is not the first time a dictator from Moscow attempted and failed to annihilate the Ukrainian culture and nation, and knowing what Stalin did in the 1930s informs Putin's actions now. Kudos to Litteken for tackling this complex topic for a general romance audience. For many of her readers, this novel will be their introduction to the Holodomor, when Stalin intentionally starved to death millions of Ukrainians, then repopulated the emptied villages with Russians and Belarussia Putin's current war is not the first time a dictator from Moscow attempted and failed to annihilate the Ukrainian culture and nation, and knowing what Stalin did in the 1930s informs Putin's actions now. Kudos to Litteken for tackling this complex topic for a general romance audience. For many of her readers, this novel will be their introduction to the Holodomor, when Stalin intentionally starved to death millions of Ukrainians, then repopulated the emptied villages with Russians and Belarussians. Told in dual contemporary/historical romance threads, the sugar-coating on the tragedy will make it slightly easier for some readers to swallow. I would have liked to see the story come alive through the characters' action rather than to have them talk about it, but this is an ambitious topic for a novice author who will only get better in subsequent books. This novel will appeal to readers who want to know about the Holodomor, but who like their history wrapped in romance.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Susan Peterson

    Holodomor—death by hunger—was a brutal and devastating assault against Ukraine by Stalin’s Russia in the decade prior to WWII. When I received an email asking if I would like to read and review this book, I hesitated. At a time when I spend a good part of my day watching the news about the war in Ukraine and the horrors that Ukrainians are suffering, could I read a book about a time 90 years ago, when Ukraine was suffering at the hands of Russia? But I did read it, because for one thing, it’s im Holodomor—death by hunger—was a brutal and devastating assault against Ukraine by Stalin’s Russia in the decade prior to WWII. When I received an email asking if I would like to read and review this book, I hesitated. At a time when I spend a good part of my day watching the news about the war in Ukraine and the horrors that Ukrainians are suffering, could I read a book about a time 90 years ago, when Ukraine was suffering at the hands of Russia? But I did read it, because for one thing, it’s important to read accounts, even fictional ones, about a time in history that we should not forget—to pay homage to those who suffered and grieved and died, and to look for a glimmer of hope in the most horrid of circumstances. This was a hard read, sad and horrifying, the worst kind of loss and pain imaginable. It is also an amazing story of survival and resilience, of bravery and sacrifice, and indeed, hope and love. The characters felt real, they were incredibly complex characters whose pain I felt deeply, holding out hope that somehow, they could find some shred of peace and happiness. The stories of the holodomor have been hidden in our history, and even in the shame and loss of its survivors. This is a book that people should read, if for no other reason than to make sure we never forget, that we don’t fail these millions of souls—those who perished, and those who survived.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    Cassie is still grieving the loss of her husband. When her mother encourages her to move home to care for her ailing grandmother, Cassie reluctantly agrees. What she discovers is her grandmother's journals of her childhood and life in Ukraine that told the heart wrenching account of the Holodomor that took the lives of millions of Ukrainians. Told through the voice of Katya who lived through the vicious assault of Joseph Stalin. Stalin set out to eradicate the population through starvation, depo Cassie is still grieving the loss of her husband. When her mother encourages her to move home to care for her ailing grandmother, Cassie reluctantly agrees. What she discovers is her grandmother's journals of her childhood and life in Ukraine that told the heart wrenching account of the Holodomor that took the lives of millions of Ukrainians. Told through the voice of Katya who lived through the vicious assault of Joseph Stalin. Stalin set out to eradicate the population through starvation, deportation to the Gulag and murder. Despite the loss of most of her family, Katya finds the inner strength to survive and find a glimmer of hope on the darkest of days. Now history seems to be repeating itself in Putin's brutal attacks on Ukraine. Again we see the resilience and strength of the Ukrainian people.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Deanne Patterson

    This book is absolutely incredible. If you enjoy reading dual time spans and learning from what you read may I suggest this to you? The book is fictional though the subject matter is about past events taking place in Ukraine. The story follows an Ukrainian family and their struggle for survival as the country is forced to go through Holodomor. I had never heard of this or learned about this in school . Holodomor is a forced starvation from 1932 to 1933 killing up to 5 million people. It was carrie This book is absolutely incredible. If you enjoy reading dual time spans and learning from what you read may I suggest this to you? The book is fictional though the subject matter is about past events taking place in Ukraine. The story follows an Ukrainian family and their struggle for survival as the country is forced to go through Holodomor. I had never heard of this or learned about this in school . Holodomor is a forced starvation from 1932 to 1933 killing up to 5 million people. It was carried out by the Soviet Regime. The characters in the present day story are linked to the characters in the past by a discovered journal telling of the hardships suffered in the past. The thing really impressing me was the resilience and strength the characters show through adversity. This is a very interesting book that shows strong courage and unwavering hope. We are assured there is light after the darkness. Highly recommended! Pub Date 16 May 2022 I was given a complimentary copy of this book. All opinions expressed are my own.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Gabriella Saab

    Erin Litteken's passion for Ukrainian culture and history is evident through this sensitive, impactful tribute to a little-known, deeply important time. Heart wrenching and heart warming, THE MEMORY KEEPER OF KYIV is a story of unwavering courage and unyielding hope. Thank you so much to the author and publisher for allowing me to read this wonderful debut! Erin Litteken's passion for Ukrainian culture and history is evident through this sensitive, impactful tribute to a little-known, deeply important time. Heart wrenching and heart warming, THE MEMORY KEEPER OF KYIV is a story of unwavering courage and unyielding hope. Thank you so much to the author and publisher for allowing me to read this wonderful debut!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Barb

    The best historical fiction books educate the reader on historical events by immersing the reader in a well researched story with characters that we find ourselves caring about. That this book is being published as Ukraine is facing horrific violence and human tragedy at the hands of the Russian government again, makes this a must read novel. Starting in 1930, the Holodomor caused the death of almost 4 million Ukraines due to Stalin's orders for collectivization of farming and the rationing of f The best historical fiction books educate the reader on historical events by immersing the reader in a well researched story with characters that we find ourselves caring about. That this book is being published as Ukraine is facing horrific violence and human tragedy at the hands of the Russian government again, makes this a must read novel. Starting in 1930, the Holodomor caused the death of almost 4 million Ukraines due to Stalin's orders for collectivization of farming and the rationing of food supplies. Erin Litteken timely debut novel "The Memory Keeper of Kyiv" does just that by telling, in dual time frames, the story of 16 year old Katya and her survival of the Great Famine starting in 1930 and her granddaughter, Cassie, gradually learning her "Bobby's" history she had kept hidden. I read this novel in one day because Katya's story is an example of indomitable spirit, courage and love in the face of unimaginable horror. Cassie's story's weaker but was a relief as she has also known loss that is put in perspective as she learns the hidden history of her grandmother. A compelling story that kept my attention (and caused some tears) right until the end. The authors notes are enlightening and well worth reading. That the famine was dismissed as anti-Soviet propaganda until the declassification and publication of historical documents in the late 1980's is unbelievable. I want to thank NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review of this book coming in May 2022.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Shirley McAllister

    Just Get Through Today, Tomorrow Will Be Better Heartbreaking tale of the Homodor or Murder by Hunger, a man made famine that killed millions of people in Ukraine during Stalin's forced collective farms program. This was a horrible time in history and it has been covered up and forgotten. It should never be forgotten. When productive farms were taken over by the government and people killed or shipped to Siberia for simply disagreeing with the government or for trying to find food to survive. Whe Just Get Through Today, Tomorrow Will Be Better Heartbreaking tale of the Homodor or Murder by Hunger, a man made famine that killed millions of people in Ukraine during Stalin's forced collective farms program. This was a horrible time in history and it has been covered up and forgotten. It should never be forgotten. When productive farms were taken over by the government and people killed or shipped to Siberia for simply disagreeing with the government or for trying to find food to survive. When people are reduced to eating earthworms and grain from the burrows of rats to survive and they are still dying. When a woman drops dead in a food line to receive a slice of bread. When people work all day on farms that are not their own and not allowed to work their own farms being paid only with a slice of bread for the day's work, the system is wrong, cruel and broken. This is a story of fictional characters based on true events during the Homodor. The characters are based on people that lived during that time and either gave testimony or wrote about it. The story is heartbreaking and tear jerking. I cannot fathom how anyone could treat people in such a manner. I also do not know how anyone survived during this time of great famine. Before the Soviet enforcers came to the small town of Sonyashnyky in Ukraine two sisters Alina and Katya lived on a farm with their parents. They married two brothers Pavla and Kolya. Then Stalin's enforcers came. They at first tried to convince all the farmer's to join the Collective Farming system, but when they did not it was enforced upon them. Everything was confiscated, all their food, and their livestock. Some survived, most did not. This is a story of a family that would have lived during those times and how they might have survived. It is also a story of Katya after the Homodor and how she dealt with the aftermath and survivor's guilt. A story of her daughter and granddaughter and how on her death bed she finally found peace. This is a story that will not be easily forgotten. It will stay with you long after you read it. It is a part of history I knew nothing about. I cannot believe now the Soviets are once again terrorizing the people in the Ukraine. History really does repeat itself. I do recommend this book. Thanks to Erin Littenken for writing a great historical book, to Boldwood Books for publishing it and to NetGalley for making it available to me to read and review.

  14. 4 out of 5

    theliterateleprechaun

    “It’s the same story every time, for centuries. Everyone wants Ukraine’s fertile soil for their own, and nobody wants to let Ukrainians rule it. “ A debut author with plenty of promise writes to educate us on the past oppression of the Ukraine people as it coincides with recent parallel tragedy. She reminds us that throughout the centuries there’ve been many authoritarian leaders trying to eradicate Ukraine and its people, most famously, Stalin and now, Putin. The desire has always been to stamp “It’s the same story every time, for centuries. Everyone wants Ukraine’s fertile soil for their own, and nobody wants to let Ukrainians rule it. “ A debut author with plenty of promise writes to educate us on the past oppression of the Ukraine people as it coincides with recent parallel tragedy. She reminds us that throughout the centuries there’ve been many authoritarian leaders trying to eradicate Ukraine and its people, most famously, Stalin and now, Putin. The desire has always been to stamp out Ukrainians and take their land. Litteken, a granddaughter of a WW2 Ukrainian refugee, wants readers to learn from history….as it’s repeating itself in real-time. While not as taut nor as refined as an established writer, Litteken, nevertheless, capably exposes Stalin’s plan to convince Ukrainians that they can have a better life and much more prosperous farms if they pool their resources and work together, class-free. Her dual timeline is set in the fictional village of Sonayshnyky, Ukraine in 1929 and in Wisconsin, USA in 2004. “Ukraine is fertile and plentiful, and Stalin thinks we should be the breadbasket of the Soviet Union. To achieve that, he wants us to give up our land and join collective farms. This has been going on in villages all across Ukraine for months, and they could arrive here at any time.” Litteken explores the citizens’ response and readers are aware of the pervading fear as people start disappearing in the middle of the night and rumours circulate about neighbours being deported. The fear escalates when people don’t know who to trust and they start turning on each other. As we start to understand a little of the history of this country, the author reveals Stalin’s increasing control using anything he can to crush them and take away their spirit. Readers will learn about the power of the Twenty-Five Thousanders, the elimination of kulaks, OGPU henchmen, and The Law of Five Stalks of Grain. Most well examined is the horror of Holodomor - a man-made famine that would result in nearly 28,000 Ukrainians dying each day. As I read, my outrage increased at what bullies and their anti-Ukrainian policies achieved. If you are as unfamiliar with any of the above as I was, you need to read to become better informed. The resilience that we are seeing nowadays has been bred into these strong, united people and sentiments such as the one below show what they were and still are willing to do for their beloved land. I was shocked at the steps taken by Ukrainians and silently cheered them on as I read. Many citizens were united in their belief that it was more dangerous to sit back and do nothing while Stalin’s forces took everything from them. We see that today. “Maybe we can’t stop them, but we can ruin what they want before they take it.” The common threads of love, hope, resilience and loss are woven through both timelines to produce a reimagined story and an informative read about actual events in history the Russian government denies. I was gifted this advance copy by Erin Litteken, Boldwood Books and NetGalley and was under no obligation to provide a review.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Simon

    "Just make it through today, and hope tomorrow will be better . . . " I preordered this ebook back in March as I knew right away based on the synopsis I would quite like this novel especially with the Ukraine situation in the last few months. I absolutely love the idea of the publisher (Boldwood Books) to donate a share of the proceeds gained by this novel to be donated to Ukraine to continue fighting the good fight :) The historical fiction novel The Memory Keeper of Kyiv by debut novelist Erin "Just make it through today, and hope tomorrow will be better . . . " I preordered this ebook back in March as I knew right away based on the synopsis I would quite like this novel especially with the Ukraine situation in the last few months. I absolutely love the idea of the publisher (Boldwood Books) to donate a share of the proceeds gained by this novel to be donated to Ukraine to continue fighting the good fight :) The historical fiction novel The Memory Keeper of Kyiv by debut novelist Erin Litteken tells the story of a little known piece of history that occurred in the 1930s Ukraine called “Holomodor”, that was a man-made famine issued by Joseph Stalin & the Soviet Union. This novel is very timely to what’s happening in the news regarding the political issues going on between Ukraine & Russia. The story alternated chapter wise between 1930s Ukraine and present day in 2004 and was well written as a dual timeline, and really brought readers into the historical setting of the time and made me understand and feel what they were going through very well. Please be sure to read the author’s notes as the author adds more historical facts that are very eye opening to shedding more light on this horrendous time in history. If you’re at all interested in historical fiction, Ukraine/Russia, and little known pieces of history, I highly recommend this novel. Thank you to the author for bringing this story to light. Slava Ukryaini! Glory to Ukraine! 🇺🇦 🇺🇦 🇺🇦 🇺🇦 🇺🇦 🇺🇦 🇺🇦 🇺🇦 🇺🇦 🇺🇦 🇺🇦 🇺🇦 🇺🇦 🇺🇦

  16. 4 out of 5

    Pauline

    This book has a dual storyline told in 1929 and in 2004. I found this story difficult to read this because of recent events. A story about family and resilience. Thank you to NetGalley and Boldwood Books for my e-copy in exchange for an honest review.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Shereadbookblog

    This story alternates between 1929/early thirties and 2004. The earlier time frame chronicles the experiences of Katya during the Holodomor in Ukrainia, while the latter introduces her in later years with her daughter, grand daughter, Cassie, and great granddaughter, Birdie. The Holodomor (literally death by hunger) was another horrific time in the history of Ukrainia. It was a time of famine, terror, deportation, and death. The famine was manmade by Stalin and the Soviets as they stripped the co This story alternates between 1929/early thirties and 2004. The earlier time frame chronicles the experiences of Katya during the Holodomor in Ukrainia, while the latter introduces her in later years with her daughter, grand daughter, Cassie, and great granddaughter, Birdie. The Holodomor (literally death by hunger) was another horrific time in the history of Ukrainia. It was a time of famine, terror, deportation, and death. The famine was manmade by Stalin and the Soviets as they stripped the country of its food. As the author said “everyone wants Ukraine’s fertile soil for their own, and nobody wants to let Ukrainians rule it.” In the author’s notes, Litteken reports that 1 in 8 Ukrainians died during this time and the country lost almost 13% of its population. And yet, the famine/terror was denied by the Soviets and even by western journalists for years. Written before the present atrocities in Ukraine, this is a tough book to read, but it needs to be read. Litteken is a good story teller and she portrays the horrors without being overly graphic. Some reviews have suggested that the book should have only included the earlier story and not the later one involving Katya’s granddaughter, herself a widow trying to rebuild her life as she learns about her grandmother’s past. I thought, though, that it gave a nice balance and coda to the earlier horrors. I give this book five stars because it is something that needs to be read. How can this genocide be happening again less than 100 years later? Follow me on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/shereadbook...

  18. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    I am not usually a historical fiction fan but I am so glad I picked up this book. Before this book I had never heard of Holodomor-the great famine before. There were some pretty descriptive pictures of what happened that both shock and sadden you. This is a story of love, loss, family and traditions. Cassie is struggling to cope and her mother suggests she go live with Bobby her grandmother. She discovers her journal and learns of her past. She had no idea what she had to endure and how strong a I am not usually a historical fiction fan but I am so glad I picked up this book. Before this book I had never heard of Holodomor-the great famine before. There were some pretty descriptive pictures of what happened that both shock and sadden you. This is a story of love, loss, family and traditions. Cassie is struggling to cope and her mother suggests she go live with Bobby her grandmother. She discovers her journal and learns of her past. She had no idea what she had to endure and how strong a person she is until translating the journal. She promises to share the story so others may learn of the hardships they endured. Cassie learns to live and love again. Beautifully written, engaging story that is a must read. Thank you Net Galley for my arc copy this is my honest review.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lauren J

    Oh my goodness this book was so good. I actually cried at the end which is very rare for me. First of all I always love when reading a book allows me to learn something new. That was absolutely the case here, as I had never heard about the Holodomor before reading this. I am still in a bit of shock at having just now learned about this horrific man made famine that Stalin intentionally caused. I also really appreciate the love story woven in, and the back and forth with present day. I absolutely Oh my goodness this book was so good. I actually cried at the end which is very rare for me. First of all I always love when reading a book allows me to learn something new. That was absolutely the case here, as I had never heard about the Holodomor before reading this. I am still in a bit of shock at having just now learned about this horrific man made famine that Stalin intentionally caused. I also really appreciate the love story woven in, and the back and forth with present day. I absolutely needed the present day chapters to take a breath after reading each heartbreaking chapter of Katya's life. In my opinion this is a must read, especially since I have already talked with so many other people who have never heard of this. Learning about the Holodomor also gives another layer of perspective on the current tragedy taking place in Ukraine today. My heart breaks more for all the Ukrainians have suffered. Thank you Boldwood Books and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Caroline Palmer

    A sad and hopeful telling of one of the most horrific man-made famines in history. This is a story that should be told, as every bit as horrific as the Holocaust that came after it and is especially relevant with the trouble in Ukraine that Russia is causing now.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lilisa

    This is one of those historical fiction books where the actual events are so deserving of being documented. A big thank you to the author for doing so. The book is set in Ukraine starting in 1929 and through the first half of the 1930s during the Holodomor - the man-made famine orchestrated by the Soviet Union’s Stalin regime with its drive for collectivization and dekulakization. Millions of Ukrainians starved to death, as well as millions of others across the Soviet Union. This is Katya’s stor This is one of those historical fiction books where the actual events are so deserving of being documented. A big thank you to the author for doing so. The book is set in Ukraine starting in 1929 and through the first half of the 1930s during the Holodomor - the man-made famine orchestrated by the Soviet Union’s Stalin regime with its drive for collectivization and dekulakization. Millions of Ukrainians starved to death, as well as millions of others across the Soviet Union. This is Katya’s story and it had a strong sense of place and time. Alongside this timeline runs another - the year 2004 with the epilogue in 2007. Cassie, a recent widow is floundering in life when she gets the opportunity to work on her grandmother’s journal. I liked the premise of the story, particularly as it is grounded in facts and the author’s inspiration was her great-grandmother. I don’t think the author intended this, but all I could think about was the sharp contrast between how Katya and Cassie handled their respective lives. I’ll leave it up to readers to discover which one I was most impressed with. What didn’t work well for me was the dual timeline treatment, which felt a bit forced in the first half of the book; I really could have done without the second timeline. All in all, this was an okay book to read, highlighting a tremendously important story that needed to be told, especially this year. Many thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    I was aware that Ukraine and Russia had a long history with each other but this book educated me about the Russian invasion in the 1930's and their attempt to kill the citizens of Ukraine by starving them to death. Almost four million people died in this man made famine. The book was published at an opportune time as the Russians are once again trying to take over Ukraine and a look back at the previous invasion made me understand better what is going on now. History IS repeating itself. This bea I was aware that Ukraine and Russia had a long history with each other but this book educated me about the Russian invasion in the 1930's and their attempt to kill the citizens of Ukraine by starving them to death. Almost four million people died in this man made famine. The book was published at an opportune time as the Russians are once again trying to take over Ukraine and a look back at the previous invasion made me understand better what is going on now. History IS repeating itself. This beautifully written and well researched novel is told in two time lines. Katya gives us the first timeline in the 1930s in Ukraine. She is 16 years old, part of a happy family and in love with the boy next door. When Stalin's Army reaches her small village, they insist that everyone join the collective and they take all of the farmers grain, food and animals with the promise that the collective would take care of them if they worked for them. What really happened was that much of the grain was sent back to Russia or left to rot near the train station. After the Russians took away the food, they began to supply meager rations of food to the people. With no way to grow their own food, families began to starve to death. Many of the men were arrested and sent to Siberia to die. The second time line is told by Cassie seventy years later in Illinois. She is a young widow and is dealing with the loss of her husband when her mother suggests that she and her daughter move in with her grandmother to take care of Bobby. Her grandmother is an immigrant from Ukraine and as her dementia worsens, she begins to talk to people that she knew growing up. She has never told any of her family what she lived through growing up but when she shares her diary with Cassie they find out about her difficult life in Ukraine in the 1930s. This book is based on the author's grandparents. It's so well written that it's hard to believe that this is a debut novel. I was extremely impressed and expect more fantastic books from her in the future. This book will be a real eye-opener for people who don't know about the Holodomor in Ukraine by the Russians in the 1930s. Holodomor means a man-made famine which the Russians used to try to destroy the Ukraine population. It's more than a history book - it's also about finding love and taking care of family during the darkest times and the resilience of people to survive and save their families. We still see the resilience and the bravery of the people of Ukraine as they fight to save their country from the Russians once again.

  23. 5 out of 5

    linda hole

    This book was heartwrenching, it is about thr homodor or murder by hunger. For me , i am ashamed to say, it is a part of history i knew little about. This book is based on true events during the homodor. Examples People being killed or shipped off to siberia, Just for disagreeing with the goverment. How could People survive under these conditions? It is a "black" book. But it was also about innoncence, love and People s strength. It broke my heart. I highly recommend this book of all my heart. T This book was heartwrenching, it is about thr homodor or murder by hunger. For me , i am ashamed to say, it is a part of history i knew little about. This book is based on true events during the homodor. Examples People being killed or shipped off to siberia, Just for disagreeing with the goverment. How could People survive under these conditions? It is a "black" book. But it was also about innoncence, love and People s strength. It broke my heart. I highly recommend this book of all my heart. Thank you to netgalley for letting me read this e arc in exchange for an honest opinion.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Suanne

    The Memory Keeper of Kyiv is the second book I’ve read recently (the other being The Doctor's Daughter by Shari J. Ryan) dealing with genocide. The Memory Keeper deals with Holodomor, the starving to death of the Ukrainian people in the early 1930s, while The Doctor's Daughter deals with the Jewish genocide in World War II Poland. Additionally, both books use alternating points of view. However, The Memory Keeper is a more complex book as it alternates past and present points of view (Katya in t The Memory Keeper of Kyiv is the second book I’ve read recently (the other being The Doctor's Daughter by Shari J. Ryan) dealing with genocide. The Memory Keeper deals with Holodomor, the starving to death of the Ukrainian people in the early 1930s, while The Doctor's Daughter deals with the Jewish genocide in World War II Poland. Additionally, both books use alternating points of view. However, The Memory Keeper is a more complex book as it alternates past and present points of view (Katya in the 1930s in the region of Kyiv, and Cassie, her granddaughter in Illinois in 2004) parsing the history out as it is revealed to the children and grandchildren of those who survived it. During Holodomor, nearly 9 million people were killed by the Soviets who stole farming equipment and crops to ship to the Soviet Union, leaving the Ukrainians to starve. I found it to be more heart-breaking than The Doctor's Daughter. The characters in The Memory Keeper of Kyiv are complex and authentic. They deal with their various emotional traumas in different ways but survive. Katya is particularly endearing because the onset of dementia releases long-suppressed memories of the Holodomor. I’ve written a novel on the Rwandan genocide in 1994 (Hunting the Devil), and I find it alarming that centuries have passed and humans still feel threatened by those who are different and that killing in the guise of self-protection continues. books such as The Memory Keeper of Kyiv and The Doctor's Daughter force us to look at ourselves and our past—and hopefully to avoid such atrocities in our future.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mateusz

    I'm thrilled that the Holodomor is finally appearing in mainstream North American literature (it has been present in children's literature and self-published books for some time). Because "The Memory Keeper of Kyiv" is a romantic story (set in Ukraine and the USA), I am sure many readers not familiar with the Great Famine will find this part of Ukraine's traumatic history easier to swallow. I'm looking forward to reading more by Erin Litteken! I'm thrilled that the Holodomor is finally appearing in mainstream North American literature (it has been present in children's literature and self-published books for some time). Because "The Memory Keeper of Kyiv" is a romantic story (set in Ukraine and the USA), I am sure many readers not familiar with the Great Famine will find this part of Ukraine's traumatic history easier to swallow. I'm looking forward to reading more by Erin Litteken!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Alfred Nobile

    This is a fictionalised account of the enforced famine inflicted on the people of Ukraine by Joseph Stalin. It tells of the Holodomor and the scars and the echoes from the past to the present. The tale is told in two points of view; one Katya an Ukanian teenager in the early 1930's and Cassie a grieving widow in early 2000's America. Katya is witness to the life and everything she knows being stripped before eyes and Cassie, though knowing she comes from Ukranian stock knows nothing of her family This is a fictionalised account of the enforced famine inflicted on the people of Ukraine by Joseph Stalin. It tells of the Holodomor and the scars and the echoes from the past to the present. The tale is told in two points of view; one Katya an Ukanian teenager in the early 1930's and Cassie a grieving widow in early 2000's America. Katya is witness to the life and everything she knows being stripped before eyes and Cassie, though knowing she comes from Ukranian stock knows nothing of her family history, culture or the language of Ukraine.This powerful tale skillfully weaves these two narratives together and we explore how Cassie learns through her grandmother's decent into dementia and memories that surface makes Cassie confront her families past and secrets that have been kept secret for decades.This is a book that urges you to read it and will take a range of emotions.A superb piece of writing that I think all readers should enjoy. Highly recommended and commended. Grab a copy and read it!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Dwina Willis

    Erin Litteken uses her great-grandparents story as the impetus for The Memory Keeper of Kyiv. It is the story of two families who lived in a small village outside Kyiv during the 1930s during the Holodomor (man made famine orchestrated by Stalin). It is serendipitous that this book is being released May 16, at a time when the Ukraine is again under attack from Russia. This is dual timeline story. Cassie's husband died in an horrific car accident. Her daughter has not spoken since the accident. C Erin Litteken uses her great-grandparents story as the impetus for The Memory Keeper of Kyiv. It is the story of two families who lived in a small village outside Kyiv during the 1930s during the Holodomor (man made famine orchestrated by Stalin). It is serendipitous that this book is being released May 16, at a time when the Ukraine is again under attack from Russia. This is dual timeline story. Cassie's husband died in an horrific car accident. Her daughter has not spoken since the accident. Cassie cannot seem to find a way out of her grief. Her grandmother, "Bobby," is showing symptoms of dementia and needs help. Cassie's mother suggests that Cassie and her daughter move in with Bobby to help. The move is good for everyone. Bobby wants to share her family's story, but can only do that from a journal written in Ukrainian. Their neighbor Nick learned the Ukrainian language at the insistence of his grandmother, so he helps translate. The journal tells the horror of the Holodomor, but it also emphasizes to look to the future. This is a story of bravery and extreme trial, It is also a story of love, survival, and joy after sorrow. I was reminded of a passage from Isaiah 6:3 "....and provide for those who grieve in Zion to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair." I was able to read this book on #NetGalley.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Helena

    This book gave me a good insight into quite recent Ukrainian history. This is a beautiful debut novel. Definitely recommend, especially now.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Laurie

    This is an emotional historical fiction novel that is now sadly, once more relevant today. Told in dual timelines, this story tells of the suffering, death and absolute devastation in the 1930's when Stalin and his followers created famine for the people of Ukraine. He ordered them to join his collective farming, taking all foods and livestock with scant returns. Mother's, father's, the elderly,children,infants died from starvation. Present day-Cassie learns of her grandmother's past through her j This is an emotional historical fiction novel that is now sadly, once more relevant today. Told in dual timelines, this story tells of the suffering, death and absolute devastation in the 1930's when Stalin and his followers created famine for the people of Ukraine. He ordered them to join his collective farming, taking all foods and livestock with scant returns. Mother's, father's, the elderly,children,infants died from starvation. Present day-Cassie learns of her grandmother's past through her journal. This helps Cassie and her family to understand why "Bobby" is exhibiting bizarre behavior such as hiding foods, and wandering. Some how she survived this awful time. The memories however, are still always present. This is a detailed, well written novel. There were times that it was not easy to read. However, it is well told, and I can only imagine what is occurring today in Ukraine as well as what was, back in the 1930's with Stalin's war. This quote "Just make it through today and hope that tomorrow will be better" seems to be the new prayer. I believe we should all read this story to gain some understanding of life in Ukraine through the years. Thank you to #Boldwood Books andNetGalley for allowing me to read this ARC and provide my review.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ann-Marie

    This is a dual-narrative, dual time book written from 1930’s Ukraine by Katya and 2004 Illinois by Cassie. It is first and foremost a story of love and loss in both time frames. Like so many books have been written using WW2 as the setting, this book uniquely uses an event I was only vaguely aware of until now, the Holodomor (forced famine) so I was both educated and kept enthralled by this story. The Katya parts are super emotional which meant I unfortunately found myself speed reading through This is a dual-narrative, dual time book written from 1930’s Ukraine by Katya and 2004 Illinois by Cassie. It is first and foremost a story of love and loss in both time frames. Like so many books have been written using WW2 as the setting, this book uniquely uses an event I was only vaguely aware of until now, the Holodomor (forced famine) so I was both educated and kept enthralled by this story. The Katya parts are super emotional which meant I unfortunately found myself speed reading through the Cassie parts in order to find out what happened next to Katya and her Ukrainian family. I know it is a work of fiction but I keep thinking back to what poor Katya and her family went through so to become aware that it is a real event and the author used stories of what would genuinely have happened and wove them into her story is just heartrending and sobering, especially given what today’s Ukrainian people are having to suffer too. Although I was given a free ARC kindle copy via Netgalley I will be donating the RRP of the hardcopy to a Ukraine help-fund.

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