Gone by Nightfall

Written by Dee Garretson
Review by Linda Harris Sittig

On the cusp of the Russian Revolution of 1917, Charlotte Mason is an American girl living within the culture of czarist Russia. Her esteemed stepfather is a Russian general, and Charlotte has grown to love living in his country. Her plans for medical school become derailed when her mother suddenly dies, and Charlotte feels compelled to take responsibility for her two brothers and her two young stepsisters.

Charlotte works at the local hospital that her mother founded, but as the harsh winter of 1917 begins, needed medical supplies dwindle as the city of Petrograd (St. Petersburg) becomes more and more a military state as the capital of Russia. Then her stepfather hires a tutor for his younger children. The young man, Dmitri, is a puzzlement to Charlotte. She finds herself attracted to him but fears that he is hiding a deadly secret. As the plot progresses, Charlotte finds that several of her friends are under suspicion of speaking out against the czar. The punishment for that is a visit from the Okhrana, the secret police, which makes people disappear. Charlotte begins to fear that Dmitri might be an informer.

As the novel winds its way to the climax, it becomes evident that Charlotte and her siblings need to escape Russia, but the country has gone into lockdown, and the reader will fear for the expatriate family.

As a young adult novel, the characters are all believable, and the author does an admirable job weaving the complexities of the Russian Revolution into a story that would appeal to teens. My only regret was that a map was not included, which would have helped ground the reader in time and place.