Book Review by Michelle Goetzl
Georgia Hunter’s debut novel, “We Were the Lucky Ones,” is a fictionalized account of her family’s experiences during World War II, beginning in their hometown of Radom, Poland in 1939. Spanning eight years, the book follows the Kurc family members to several countries and continents, including Austria, Italy, Argentina and Siberia as the war concludes.
Sol and Nechuma Kurc are wealthy, cultured Jews living in Poland. They have five grown children and live a very comfortable life until the Nazis come to power. The novel begins from the perspective of Addy, the middle son, a piano composer and engineer living in France. When he is discouraged from coming home to celebrate Passover as conditions are “unfavorable,” we see problems start to creep into their lives.
Each chapter focuses on a different character, noting the character in focus and highlighting what was truly happening at the time and particular location.The story jumps from character to character throughout. The amount of research put into this book is impressive.
As the title mentions, this family was among the “lucky ones,” of which there were very few. However, that doesn’t mean that there was no loss. The Kurc family is separated across Europe, South America and Northern Africa. What makes this story so different is how it showcases so many different experiences of the time.
Early on, Addy is separated from his family simply because he is working in France. When he tries to go home to Radom, he cannot. He loses touch with his family and has no idea if they are alive or dead.
Some of the family spends time in Lvov, Poland until that town suffers from a pogrom in 1941. One couple gets shipped off to Siberia, lest we forget that the Soviet Union also took over part of Poland.
The Kurc family, like others during the Holocaust, do the best they can to survive. Halina, the youngest child, becomes the driving force to keep everyone alive.
The story begins and ends with the Passover meal, a time of celebrating the spirit of resolve during the Exodus from Egypt. It is the same fierce determination that keeps the Kurc family alive as they had to leave their home in Poland, creating a truly moving and wonderful novel.