The Girl They Left Behind by Roxanne Veletzos

Book Review

BOOK REVIEW: The Girl They Left Behind by Roxanne Veletzos

Release Date: October 9th, 2018
Genre: Historical Fiction, World War II
345 Pages
Published by Atria Books
My Rating on Goodreads ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


On a freezing night in January 1941, a little Jewish girl is found on the steps of an apartment building in Bucharest. With Romania recently allied with the Nazis, the Jewish population is in grave danger, undergoing increasingly violent persecution. The girl is placed in an orphanage and eventually adopted by a wealthy childless couple who name her Natalia. As she assimilates into her new life, she all but forgets the parents who were forced to leave her behind. They are even further from her mind when Romania falls under Soviet occupation.
Yet, as Natalia comes of age in a bleak and hopeless world, traces of her identity pierce the surface of her everyday life, leading gradually to a discovery that will change her destiny. She has a secret crush on Victor, an intense young man who as an impoverished student befriended her family long ago. Years later, when Natalia is in her early twenties and working at a warehouse packing fruit, she and Victor, now an important official in the Communist regime, cross paths again. This time they are fatefully drawn into a passionate affair despite the obstacles swirling around them and Victor’s dark secrets.
When Natalia is suddenly offered a one-time chance at freedom, Victor is determined to help her escape, even if it means losing her. Natalia must make an agonizing decision: remain in Bucharest with her beloved adoptive parents and the man she has come to love, or seize the chance to finally live life on her own terms, and to confront the painful enigma of her past.


Based on the true story of her mother's life, Veletzos was able to piece together a beautifully written, emotional page-turner, filled with historical details about the WWII and the Soviet rule on Romania.  The result was an impossible to put down book, showing the sacrifice, perseverance, hope and love of two mothers for the child they shared.

The novel is separated into three parts (Anton & Despina, Natalia, Victor), which perfectly paints the picture of  wealth, reversal of fortune and rise to top at a time of war.   The characters are well developed and Veletzos' descriptive writing style allow the reader to imagine the smells and sounds both at happy and tragic times. 

What I loved the most about the story was how both set of parents loved and cherished Natalia.  How they vowed to protect her at all costs.  Their ultimate sacrifice is an inspiration for the human kind.

I truly enjoyed this debut novel and will be looking forward for the author's next book! 

"To love is much easier than to despair, even when all of your hope has been burned to ashes."

To learn more about the author and in case you're looking for the "reading group guide" for book clubs, click here for  Roxanne Veletzos website.

I received a copy of the book from JKS Communications in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.