The Lost Year

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Modern Age

The Lost Year: A Survival Story of the Ukrainian Famine
Author: Marsh, Katherine
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Time Period: Modern Age
Time Frame: 1933
Geographic Area: Russia
Country: Russia United States
Topics: Holodomor, Soviet Union
Genre: Fiction
Reading Age: Upper Middle Grade
Format: Chapter Book
Published: 2023

World History > Modern Age > Soviet Union

From the author of Nowhere Boy - called “a resistance novel for our times” by The New York Times - comes a brilliant middle-grade survival story that traces a harrowing family secret back to the Holodomor, a terrible famine that devastated Soviet Ukraine in the 1930s.

Thirteen-year-old Matthew is miserable. His journalist dad is stuck overseas indefinitely, and his mom has moved in his one-hundred-year-old great-grandmother to ride out the pandemic, adding to his stress and isolation.

But when Matthew finds a tattered black-and-white photo in his great-grandmother’s belongings, he discovers a clue to a hidden chapter of her past, one that will lead to a life-shattering family secret. Set in alternating timelines that connect the present-day to the 1930s and the US to the USSR, Katherine Marsh’s latest novel sheds fresh light on the Holodomor – the horrific famine that killed millions of Ukrainians, and which the Soviet government covered up for decades.

An incredibly timely, page-turning story of family, survival, and sacrifice, inspired by Marsh’s own family history, The Lost Year is perfect for fans of Ruta Sepetys' Between Shades of Gray and Alan Gratz's Refugee.

Emily's Review

This story had me hooked from the first chapter. Told in multiple perspectives across two timelines, we learn the history of one family during the Holodomor.

We're following the perspectives of three children - Matthew, who lives in 2020 New Jersey and is living through the early days of the Covid pandemic, Helen, a Ukrainian American girl living in 1933 Brooklyn, and Mila, a young Soviet girl in 1933 Kyiv. Matthew's GG, or Great Grandmother has come to live with them during the pandemic. When his mother grounds him and takes away his switch, he spends his time helping his GG sort through her boxes of belongings. This is where he discovers a long-buried secret.

GG tells him the story of three cousins. Helen, a young girl determined to help her family in Ukraine, Nadiya, a starving Kulak, and Mila, a spoiled Soviet communist. The way the author wove these children's stories together was captivating. I literally couldn't put this book down. I really appreciated the way the author used reporting and media to tell the story. The characters in this book are so vibrant that they practically walk off the page. I loved seeing their sheer determination and will to live. This story left me wanting to read more about this period in history.

I think children will find this story fascinating. It paints a vivid picture of a devastating time period and links it to the modern day in a way that I think grounds the story for modern readers. I appreciate that the author based a lot of this story on her own family history.

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