They Went Left by Monica Hesse Review is here. This novel centers around Zofia Lederman. She is a Jewish girl who got liberated from Gross-Rosen concentration camp, barely surviving frostbite, starvation, and beatings. She holds on thinking one thought: find her brother Abek and reunite with him. It’s what drives her to survive and maybe not be a no-nothing girl anymore. Her last memory is her family going to the left into the gas chambers while she promised her brother from A to Z she’d find him after this was all over.
Now in a hospital, Zofia recovers enough to be released thanks to the soldier who saved her, Dima. They don’t speak the same language, but Dima always comes to see her. He takes Zofia back to her town of Sosnowiec. It here Zofia realizes she has no home without the one family member who survived, Abek. She needs to find him, and when she finds Dima has hindered information from her, Zofia goes alone.
Heading to Foehrenwald, Zofia thinks she will find Abek there waiting for her. But this is an adult-only recovery camp where children aren’t sent. However, Zofia decides to stay for a short time until she can travel to other camps. It is here she is magnetically drawn to Josef, who has secrets he hides from everyone, including her. Miriam, Breine, and Esther become her friends as Zofia begins to heal. But will she find her brother? Is he still alive? More importantly, is Zofia strong enough to come to terms with the answer to that question?
Zofia must decide for herself is if she can forgive those who keep secrets from her. One thing is for sure. Nothing is as it is used to be. Will Zofia decide to go back and try to mend her life or move forward once and for all, no matter the outcome.
This novel was another moving masterpiece by Monica Hesse. The ending was truly spectacular because I never saw it coming. It was SO good, probably the best ending to a novel I’ve read this year. Also, I really enjoyed how Monica was able to capture the raw emotions of someone in a concentration camp. She didn’t just show a romance in a hopeless place. She showed a character with raw heartache who had to find her way again. You can feel Zofia’s brokenness through her dialogue and in her inner monologues. It makes you feel you are right next to her and feeling what she is feeling, and achieving that is a struggle for some authors, but not Hesse.
Monica Hesse pulls you into this story set in a time not many authors dare to write about. In her note at the end of the book, she says not many books out there are set in the timeframe she set They Went Left. I agree. But what made this book phenomenal was how great Hesse knew these characters inside and out. Not just the protagonist, Zofia. But Esther, Josef, Dima, even Breine. Each was unique in their own way with dark inner ghosts, and she was able to capture that beautifully. I definitely recommend this book!
WATCH my Virtual review of historical novels featuring They Went Left by Monica Hesse below!