In 1931 Russia, Stalin’s ruthless machine catches an innocent family of poor farmers in its iron grip.The father is reported as anti-Communist, and so he has to go into hiding while the children embark on a dangerous journey to Germany with their aunt. Unfortunately, the aunt is detained at the border, and the children have to travel alone.
Twelve-year-old Katya takes over as protector of her two younger sisters and brother. They’re on their way to an uncle’s house in East Prussia, hoping that things will get better. But they don’t get better, and neither does the story. After days and days on a miserable, dirty train, deprived of food, rest, and comfort, they arrive at the train station in their new town. Instead of taking the children home, the uncle brings them to the zoo and they spend the rest of their exhausting day there. In the style of the author, who includes short questions from the heroine to herself on practically every page, the question arises, “Why would he do that?”
When they get home, the heroine is made a slave of her evil aunt. Before her first and only day of school, she has to milk the cows, do the laundry, and clear the breakfast table, all while the “darling” real daughter pretties herself in the mirror. Naturally, there’s no lunch for the heroine. The reader will ask, “Now where have I heard this story before? Oh yes, Cinderella.” It’s a Cinderella story, except that this is no fairy tale. There’s no hero, and the only good male character is a coward in the face of his wife.
If the reader is looking for an uplifting story with a plot, conflict, and resolution, this is not it. This is just one depressing page after the other.