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The Girl They Left Behind

Written by: Roxanne Veletzos
Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell
Length: 10 hrs and 57 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (49 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A sweeping family saga and love story that offers a vivid and unique portrayal of life in war-torn 1941 Bucharest and life behind the Iron Curtain during the Soviet Union occupation - perfect for fans of Lilac Girls and Sarah’s Key.

On a freezing night in January 1941, a little Jewish girl is found on the steps of an apartment building in Bucharest. With Romania recently allied with the Nazis, the Jewish population is in grave danger, undergoing increasingly violent persecution. The girl is placed in an orphanage and eventually adopted by a wealthy, childless couple who name her Natalia. As she assimilates into her new life, she all but forgets the parents who were forced to leave her behind. They are even further from her mind when Romania falls under Soviet occupation.

Yet, as Natalia comes of age in a bleak and hopeless world, traces of her identity pierce the surface of her everyday life, leading gradually to a discovery that will change her destiny. She has a secret crush on Victor, an intense young man who as an impoverished student befriended her family long ago. Years later, when Natalia is in her early 20s and working at a warehouse packing fruit, she and Victor, now an important official in the Communist regime, cross paths again. This time, they are fatefully drawn into a passionate affair despite the obstacles swirling around them and Victor’s dark secrets.

When Natalia is suddenly offered a one-time chance at freedom, Victor is determined to help her escape, even if it means losing her. Natalia must make an agonizing decision: remain in Bucharest with her beloved adoptive parents and the man she has come to love or seize the chance to finally live life on her own terms and to confront the painful enigma of her past. 

©2018 Roxanne Veletzos (P)2018 Simon & Schuster

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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5 stars!

Absolutely amazing! This book hooked me very early on and I couldn't stop listening. Narrator was perfect!

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lovely story

The story was lovely and the narration was excellent. I found the telling of the story to be disjointed. Characters that seemed peripheral were later revealed as having been important. I don't mean that the rose to importance but rather in hindsight they felt made important. Other characters disappeared from the story and I felt like I missed a chapter of the book. Still, it was a good story.

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couldn't put it down!

I loved it ! what a fascinating story of the true depths of the love parents have for their children. already recommended to my friends!

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  • sue
  • 2019-03-04

A bit slow

The story, based on historical truth, was good but it did drag a bit. No surprises. Believable

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • TeresaAnn Elizabeth
  • 2018-12-04

Different WWII Story

This book set in WWII and right afterwards, is not like any I’ve read before. It was sad and depressing finding out how life became for those who lived under the Communist Regime once the War itself had ended. The bleakness described, however, does not lead to a conclusion of no hope, thankfully.
Overall, I recommend it.

17 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Andreea
  • 2019-01-23

I cried and cried...

As a Romanian, I was curious about this story, especially since it dealt with a period so difficult in the history of my country. I did not regret a second adding this title to my audiobook list. More than that, and in all sincerity, I do not recall a book that has made me cry so much throughout the reading. The emotion of having the people - grandparents, great-great parents, now lost forever - come back once again to life... priceless. So many emotions I have felt, so many people lost in the brutal machine of the history I knew... so many destinies changed without compassion.

As someone who currently lives in Bucharest, I imagined the map described by the author in the book, and what a journey it has been! Almost all the places in the book have suffered along the years alterations that have mutilated the beauty of the city and I have no words to describe the regret I feel that my Bucharest has lost that elegance that it once held. Except for a couple of times, the narrator pronounced the titles and names of the places correctly, I know it is not an easy language, especially for someone foreign.

My favourite characters were indubitably Anton and Despina, I've "seen" them along the years in the city - I must say that fewer and fewer are left nowadays -, so quiet, so dignified, even in their walk. As far as the story is concerned, I wish, wish, wish that they had reunited (in fiction) with their daughter for a complete forever after. I know what it feels like to be away from parents, from the loved ones. I must say I did not care much about the love story with Victor - he was still part of a hideous regime -, but I totally understand the idea behind it.

I am grateful also to Roxanne V. for her approach of a theme that has so rarely been seen in print: the selling of the Jewish people by the Romanian Communist State. It is a shame what happened! Bravo, Roxanne V.!

All in all, The Girl They Left behind will remain in my heart for a long time and I hope to read more books from this author. Thank you!

38 of 40 people found this review helpful

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  • Vicki
  • 2018-11-18

Worthy of Ten ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Haunting story and narration. Such depth in the main characters...I felt an incredible attachment and empathy for them.

21 of 23 people found this review helpful

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  • Jeannie
  • 2019-01-30

Yes, you should pick this book

compelling story, vivid scenes, rich characters and the narration is beautiful. Yes. A thousand times, Yes.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • C. Johnston
  • 2019-05-07

Not finished yet - the narration is distracting!

So far this is a great book, but the narration really makes it difficult to listen to it. I keep wondering if the narrator is paid by the hour because she drags out each word for SOOOO long, and it totally distracts from the story. I will finish the book because it's great writing and a captivating story - and maybe after a few more chapters (I'm on chapter 7 currently), I'll be more accustomed to the excruciatingly dragging monotone narration and be able to enjoy the story more. I will make note of the narrator's name, though, and not purchase any other audio-books that she narrates. I've listened to audio-books for years, and while some narrators might do a less than wonderful job, I've never listened to anyone that narrates in such a way that it detracts from the actual story.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • C. L. Wells
  • 2019-03-02

Simply OK

I think I would have enjoyed the novel more if I would have read it on my own. I didn’t like the narrator. It felt as though Cassandra was reading entirely too slow or perhaps the story overall was just moving too slow. It’s hard to put my finger on it but I didn’t enjoy it at all. I returned the audiobook without finishing it which is something that I rarely do.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • towergrl
  • 2018-11-20

Romania’s heartbreak

Simply outstanding! I could not stop listening to this poignant, heartbreaking, and courageous tale of many. Truly beautiful in its angst and the hard truths that the world needs to know. This novel is a gift to anyone who reads it, a gift!

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Chere Thomas
  • 2019-05-14

Ok but slow

This was a good story but the narrator’s voice was so slow and boring I had to turn the speed to 1.5! I had a very difficult time getting through the first couple hours and almost stopped listening all together, but after turning the speed up I was able to breeze through it. I do recommend it but if you order it, remember you have the option of listening 1.5x the speed and that might help you through it.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Goddess Being
  • 2018-10-28

Based on a true story..inspiring and courageous

It took a while to get into this and I found the accents a bit difficult but the story was very inspiring. At the end I cried as it was so moving..The writting is wonderful makes one feel as if they are there. Great Book!

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Kate Yonder
  • 2019-03-25

Another Outstanding Performance by Campbell and Full Circle Novel

Cassandra Campbell is a truly outstanding narrator. Her performance shines every single time and this novel is performed to the same standard. She’s amazing! Truly!

I love this novel with my soul. Very rarely do WWII historical fiction novels come full circle, addressing all the questions that an inquisitive reader may pick up or write down along the way. I’ve had questions with almost all the novels I’ve read about this period where I was left hanging with, what happened to that character? Why was that done that way? What was that meant to convey? When will that be readdressed? However, two questions I had lingering until near the end of the novel were, (1) who was the mysterious gentleman who appeared to Talia after detention and (2) where did the penicillin come from in Geneva and who’s door had to be knocked on? Those two questions plagued me. They were finally answered.

What I love most about this novel is that it in unhurried. Veletzos takes her time developing each character and every situation is diligently depicted. I thought, as the novel was wrapping up in its final chapters, that Veletzos would fast-forward, cramming everything in and leaving details out here and there. Nope. Not the case at all. No stone left unturned.

What I am not a fan of is the relationship between Talia. It reminded me so much of Girl From the Train or On The Train, another WWII historical fiction piece. Not something I would do but all the same. Not a fan of this bit. This aside, still a great novel.

I would put this book on my top shelf along with other WWII favs—Underneath a Scarlet Sky, Lilac Girls, Hidden Among the Stars, On the Ragged Edge of Night, 40 Autumns...and I highly recommend it for others who enjoyed these titles as well.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful