My third Russian historical, Journey Through a Dark Forest: Lyuba and Ivan in the Age of Anxiety, released 11 December. Due to its massive, sprawling length, I decided to release it as one book in four volumes.
This was one of those serendipitous cases where a story still reads smoothly when split into different volumes, instead of like a story intended as one very long book was artificially splintered. I’m planning a post about when such a course of action works, and why.
Part III is set from 3 June 1940–8 May 1945, opening with the bombing of Paris and ending in New York on V-E Day. Darya and Oliivia’s ordeal was, shamefully, not such a rare occurrence. A sizable number of people with American and British citizenship ended up in the camps, a subject which is still swept under the rug by TPTB. The survivors haven’t gotten much, if any, reparations or compensation either.
While the whole world is in the throes of one of the most concentrated periods of Sturm und Drang in recent memory, the Konevs and their friends far and wide struggle to survive and make their way back to some semblance of a peaceful, ordinary world.
Darya and Oliivia’s year of studying abroad at a Parisian lycée is indefinitely extended when the Nazis invade and occupy France. Fedya and Osyenka are chomping at the bit for America to join the war so they can get into uniform to save them. When the war finally comes to America, Fedya, Vasya, Osyenka, and Leontiy enlist as soon as possible, and in Canada, Yuriy becomes an Army medic. But winning the war isn’t going to be a quick or easy proposition, and there’s no guarantee they’ll find Darya and Oliivia, particularly after word reaches their families that they were taken away by the Nazis in November 1942.
While many other young men have joined the Army and Navy, Patya and Rodya have joined the Marines, and fight in the Pacific instead of Europe. Patya is a natural Marine, whereas Rodya is more scared in battle, and depends upon Patya to protect him. Rodya is desperate to prove himself as a brave, manly Marine who doesn’t need his best friend to watch his back all the time, and that moment finally, unexpectedly comes during the Battle of Saipan. But Rodya still isn’t satisfied with his Purple Heart and having protected Patya, and sneaks back into combat for the Battle of Tinian. Patya meanwhile is faced with the lifelong reality of the million-dollar wound which earned him his own Purple Heart.
As the young men in the Army and Marines struggle to stay alive in each battle, Darya, Oliivia, and their new friends struggle to survive as Nazi slaves. A seeming miracle happens when they’re transported to a Polish family’s farm taken over by the SS and chosen as indoor laborers, but all good things must come to an end, and they’re evacuated deep into Germany before being sent on a three-week death march to Mauthausen. Only the hope of being rescued and seeing her family again, and her determination to protect Oliivia, keeps Darya alive. Even if the war ends in victory for the Allies, Darya and Oliivia will still have to contend with the war inside their minds, and a world they no longer remember how to live in.