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A powerful middle-grade debut that weaves together folklore and history to tell the story of a girl finding her voice and the strength to use it during the final months of the Communist regime in Romania in 1989.
Ileana has always collected stories. Some are about the past, before the leader of her country tore down her home to make room for his golden palace; back when families had enough food, and the hot water worked on more than just Saturday nights. Others are folktales like the one she was named for, which her father used to tell her at bedtime. But some stories can get you in trouble, like the dangerous one criticizing Romania’s Communist government that Uncle Andrei published - right before he went missing.
Fearing for her safety, Ileana’s parents send her to live with the grandparents she’s never met, far from the prying eyes and ears of the secret police and their spies, who could be any of the neighbors. But danger is never far away. Now, to save her family and the village she’s come to love, Ileana will have to tell the most important story of her life.
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It is worth your time to listen to this
I first read this at my local library and decided to listen to it while I knitted. It is easy to follow while reminding the listener/reader of history. I am a little bit familiar with Romania's history, having read and listened to "I Live Again: A Memoir of Ileana, Princess of Romania and Archduchess of Austria". With these being the two books that I have read about Romania I feel like I got the start and end of a Very Bad Time for the country.
As a child who came of age during the Cold War, this answered questions that I had about why the people never rose up to fight the government control and told us of what life was like during the Soviet era. The concrete block apartments were mentioned that we all had seen in the west of the Eastern Bloc, as well as comments of the collectivizing of land and properties.
I felt that at times the reader got overly dramatic, but the book is dramatic. Sometimes I had to turn it off for a bit before I went back to it-- it wasn't bad, I was feeling sucked into the chaos.
As a student of folklore, I appreciated this for Ileana's references to stories and touching on folk belief.