We Were the Lucky Ones is the incredible story of the members of one Jewish family in Poland during World War II--parents, five grown children and their spouses, and their young children--each struggling for survival as the world crumbles around them, sometimes ripping them from their family at a moment's notice.
The story is fictionalized but based on the real experiences of the author's own family, and this is how you do "based on a true story" fiction. While I had to pause for a moment at the start of each chapter and orient myself (because each chapter moves to a different family member), the experiences and emotions kept me rooted in the story with no confusion--a feat, considering the number of characters.
This was not only edge-of-my-seat reading (all the more so knowing that many of the events actually happened), but it was one of the most informative World War II books I've read about the Jewish experience in Poland during the war. One of my best reads of 2018.
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It is the spring of 1939 and three generations of the Kurc family are doing their best to live normal lives, even as the shadow of war grows closer. The talk around the family Seder table is of new babies and budding romance, not of the increasing hardships threatening Jews in their hometown of Radom, Poland. But soon the horrors overtaking Europe will become inescapable and the Kurcs will be flung to the far corners of the world, each desperately trying to navigate his or her own path to safety.
As one sibling is forced into exile, another attempts to flee the continent, while others struggle to escape certain death, either by working grueling hours on empty stomachs in the factories of the ghetto or by hiding as gentiles in plain sight. Driven by an unwavering will to survive and by the fear that they may never see one another again, the Kurcs must rely on hope, ingenuity, and inner strength to persevere.
An extraordinary, propulsive novel, We Were the Lucky Ones demonstrates how in the face of the twentieth century’s darkest moment, the human spirit can endure and even thrive.