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.
The Memory Keeper of Kyiv is a captivating, thought provoking read which manages to be heartbreaking but hopeful at the same time. It’s sadly a timely book as it helps give some background to the current conflict in Ukraine.
The story is told in two time lines, one following Katya and her family in 1932 as they struggle to survive through the Holodomor famine. The other is set in 2004 and follows Cassie who returns home after the loss of her husband and finds an old diary written in Ukrainian. I thought both timelines were well written though I did find the later timeline to be a little bit more interesting. I had heard of the Holodomor before as we studied it in a little bit in GCSE History but I had never read such an intense, harrowing account of what the victims must have gone through. It’s a tough read at times as the author doesn’t shy away from any of the Brutality and my heart broke as I learned about all they must have suffered. How humans can do this to each other is beyond me! Cassie’s story was interesting to read about too and I enjoyed trying to solve her family mysteries with her. It was especially nice to see how her investigations helped heal her own pain.
The author does a great job setting the scene so you feel like you are actually there watching everything unfold. I loved learning a little bit more about Ukranian traditions and the way of life there. Some of the food sounds delicious and it was interesting to learn more about Pysanky eggs and the beautiful embroidery and flowers there.
Overall I really enjoyed this fantastic book which I’ve continued to think about long after reading. I thought the book had a great pace to it and there was always something happening to keep my glued to the page Some of the action had me a the edge of my seat as I watched the horrors unfold and other parts had me in tears. It’s an especially poignant read as there’s an element of history repeating itself with the current Ukrainian invasion by Russian. The ending was brilliant and I liked how the author managed to end it in such hopeful way.
I’d definitely recommend it to other historical fiction fans, especially as part of the proceeds for this book go towards DEC Ukraine.
Huge thanks to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me onto the blog tour and to Boldwood for my copy of this book.
About The Author:
Erin Litteken is a debut novelist with a degree in history and a passion for research. At a young age, she was enthralled by stories of her family’s harrowing experiences in Ukraine before, during and after World War II. She lives in Illinois, USA with her husband and children.