Alban, Andrea. Anya's War. 208 p. Feiwel & Friends. 2011. Hardcover $16.99. ISBN 9780312370930.
In 1937, Odessa, Ukraine, is no longer a safe place for Jews, so fourteen year old Anya and her family have fled to Shanghai in search of a new life, free from persecution. A typical teen, Anya thinks about boys, keeps a journal, and gets fed up with her elders. She's also a girl with ambitions that reach beyond what her mother and strict grandmother have planned, and her determined nature shines through when she finds an abandoned newborn baby girl, and risks the ire of her family in order to save the infant from certain death.
Let me say, this is historical fiction for real lovers of historical fiction. Although there are a few well-crafted sequences of suspense that will appeal even to those who typically shun historical fiction (such as, what on earth is she going to do with that baby?!), most of the narrative is devoted to detailing Anya's daily life in Shanghai, and will be best appreciated by those who truly love to immerse themselves in another time and place. The description of the family's Shabbat ritual is particularly rich and beautiful, and the author paints a vivid picture of Shanghai as a fascinating blend of cultures, filled with expats from every corner of the world.
Personally, I never knew that Jews had fled to Shanghai before World War II, so I found the story's setting and cultural details really interesting. It's always a treat to find a book covering parts of history that don't generally appear in our high school textbooks.
Inspired by true events from the author's family, Anya's War explores feminist issues, such as women's perceived worth, and touches upon race, class, and religion. This book is available in stores now. My review was based on an ARC provided by the publisher.