Review: Smuggled

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: SmuggledSmuggled by Christina Shea
Published by Grove Press on July 5, 2011
Pages: 256
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

Sweeping from post–WWII rural Romania to the cosmopolitan Budapest of 1990, Christina Shea’s Smuggled is the story of Eva Farkas, who loses her identity, quite literally, as a young child when she is smuggled in a flour sack across the Hungarian border to escape the Nazis.

Five-year-old Eva is trafficked from Hungary to Romania at the end of the war, arriving in the fictional border town of Crisu, given the name Anca Balaj by her aunt and uncle and instructed never to speak another word of Hungarian again. “Eva is dead,” she is told. As the years pass, Anca proves an unquenchable spirit, with a lust for life even when political forces threaten to derail her at every turn. Time is layered in this quest for self, culminating in the end of the Iron Curtain and Anca’s reclaiming of the name her mother gave her. When Eva returns to Hungary in 1990, a country changing as fast as the price of bread, she meets Martin, an American teacher, and Eva’s lifelong search for family and identity comes full circle as her cross-cultural relationship with Martin deepens through their endeavor to rescue the boy downstairs from abuse.

An intimate look at the effects of history on an individual life, Smuggled is a raw and fearless account of transformation, and a viscerally reflective tale about the basic need for love without claims.

What drew me to this book was the WWII setting. This era has long been my favorite historical time period to read about and study, perhaps surpassed in recent years by the Vietnam War era but perhaps not. Anyway, the WWII aspects, primarily of Eva’s smuggling, were definitely really interesting. Even more intriguing, though, was reading the story of her life in Romania, of the myriad terrible things she had to do to survive.

Although the first third of the book details Anca’s childhood, this is most definitely not a book intended for young readers. The themes are dark and only get darker as Anca grows up. Speaking of that, be forewarned that this story is gritty and painful and violent at times. It involves scenes of rape and prostitution. History isn’t always pretty, which, I think, people generally know, but this is a side that isn’t always as focused on. Eva/Anca (her Romanian name) has such an amazing spirit to have made it through all that she did. Despite all of the awful things she goes through, she retains the ability to trust and to love, which is incredibly inspiring. Nor does her character seem at all fake or overly optimistic; she’s just a really strong person.

If you love books about the war or about life under the Soviet regime, you should not miss this one. It’s beautifully written and completely fascinating from the first pages.

One response to “Review: Smuggled”

  1. Hey – could you send your mailing address to lenore.appelhans at googlemail dot com ? I need to pass it on the pub so you can get your books.

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