When We Were Young

Written by Jaclyn Goldis
Review by Linda Harris Sittig

When We Were Young is a tale of three generations of women who sacrificed the loves of their lives to follow family traditions. In 1942, we meet Sarah Batis, whose Jewish family living on the island of Corfu has forbidden her to have a relationship with Milos, her non-Jewish boyfriend. When Sarah refuses to break it off, her family orders her to leave. Sarah goes to live with her boyfriend’s family on the island of Lefkada, and then the Nazis arrive and round up all the Jews on Corfu.

In 2004, we meet Sarah’s daughter Bea, who remembers when she also fell in love with a non-Jewish boy. Her parents had been determined that Bea follow tradition and marry a boy from their faith. Bea acquiesced, but began a decades-long affair each summer on Corfu with her original boyfriend. Agonizing consequences ensued.

2019 introduces us to Joey, Sarah’s granddaughter and Bea’s daughter. Joey is engaged to marry Grant, a Jewish man she loves but who is not the true love of her heart. That belongs to Leo, whom she has loved since her childhood summers on Corfu. Leo and Joey had been destined to wed, but he abruptly broke off the relationship with no explanations. All three generations converge for Joey’s wedding in Florida, and during the pre-wedding week, family stories and family secrets, long hidden, come to light, upending Joey’s world. Then just days before Joey is to marry, Leo re-enters her life.

I loved the characters with their faults and dreams and the cruel twists of fate that encircled their lives. I did have some problems that the story was not told in chronological order, which would often pull me out of the plot to ascertain which time frame I was inhabiting. Definitely recommended.