Rachel's Secret, by author Shelly Sanders, on the shelf of new books. It wasn't a new novel at all, but had been written in 1964 and reprinted in 2012.
Rachel's Secret is an historical novel about a Jewish pogrom in the Russian town of Kishinev in 1903. From the title and blurb on the back cover, I expected intrigue and history adventure. I got both. This is a riveting story about teens discovering the courage to do what they have to and saving lives.
The inciting incident occurs right away. On page 22, sixteen year-old Rachel, a Jew living in the town of Kishinev, witnesses a gruesome murder of her friend, a gentile boy, named Mikhail, by his uncle, a disgruntled policeman.
However, being a Jewish girl, who will believe Rachel if she goes to the police, especially if the perpetrator is a police officer? She keeps quiet and it isn't long before the bigoted newspaper launches a propaganda campaign to blame the murder on the Jews with their foreign religion, beginning a witch hunt. The violence against jewish shops and people, always smoldering, explodes one night.
What will Rachel do afterward? Will what she knows ever be revealed? And what can Sergei, a gentile boy who has befriended Rachel, do about the murdering of innocents? Can one teenage gentile boy act against his entire community? Will he?
The story is based on a true event involving Sanders' grandmother and written in evocative prose that hooked me immediately. The stakes were high for Rachel, life and death. The reader soon gets this, and is the reason the story is impossible to put down.
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