"I hear laughter, but it's not a happy sound..." ~from The Kulak's Daughter
One of the perks of being a reviewer for The Long and the Short of It is that I get to read fabulous books for free. What did I just finish? A middle grade historical fiction book called The Kulak's Daughter - and it was terrific.
Middle grade fiction targets a slightly younger audience than Young Adult, which means this book is suited for ages 12 and up. Still, I enjoyed it thoroughly from an adult perspective as well. It tells the story (based on the author's mother's life) of Olga, whose entire family is removed from their farm under the 1930 Stalin administration when the father refuses to give his land up to the "collective," communist efforts. The family ends up at Yaya, a Soviet "transition camp" which bears a stark resemblance to the Nazi concentration camps. The Kulak's Daughter tells the story of how Olga survives, against all odds, with the help of both her siblings and others who end up at the camp with her.
This book is well written, with great description that brings to life the Soviet Union under Stalin in the early 1930s. Beyond that, it's utterly realistic and heart-breaking, a glimpse into a foreign era I had no idea about. The characters and the story of how so many Russian families were displaced to Siberian work camps and transition barracks (just deplorable conditions) are truly compelling.
Honestly, this is a book published by a small press, by a debut author, that you'll probably never hear of anywhere else. But you should. Visit Gabriele Goldstone's website to find out more. I highly recommend it!