For the readers of The Nightingale and Lilac Girls, inspired by the true story of the author’s great-grandmother’s journey during World War II, The Girl with the Silver Star is the extraordinary story of a mother’s love and will to survive during one of history’s darkest time periods.
As a hailstorm of bombs begins to shatter the city of Minsk in Belarus, Raisa and her family run through the darkness of night to take cover. When Raisa, Abraham, and their daughters, Luba and Sofia, emerge from the bomb shelter, they find an unfamiliar city before them; chaos and terror burn in every direction. Fearing for their lives, they must leave at once to find the rest of their family. But before they are able to escape, Abraham is conscripted into the Russian Army and the family is forced to part ways. Raisa’s love and strength are put to the ultimate test as she finds herself on her own with her two young daughters in tow. How will she manage alone without her soulmate by her side?
Relying on hope, resourcefulness and courage, they walk, hitch hike and take trains heading for Uzbekistan, over 2,500 miles from home. Along the way they run from bombs, endure starvation, and face death.
Raisa finds solace in the women around her. Her mother, sisters, old friends and new help carry her through the difficult war years, but Raisa’s longing to reunite with Abraham still rages inside her heart. Will they ever see each other again? Will Raisa and her family find their way back to their homeland?
The Girl with the Silver Star is a captivating journey through war-torn Soviet Union as it illuminates a unique part of WWII history, the female heroes. Raisa’s journey is a tribute to the nameless women, their determination, bravery, grief and unwavering love during impossible times. Their stories shouldn’t be forgotten.
Reviews for The Girl with the Silver Star
Ellie Midwood, USA Today bestselling and award-winning historical fiction author
“The Girl with the Silver Star is a poignant true story of a Jewish family struggling to survive the war. Separated at the very beginning of the Soviet-German conflict, Raisa and Abraham remain fiercely loyal to each other and do anything possible and impossible to keep their spirits up. While Abraham is fighting on the front, Raisa sets on a perilous journey through the Soviet Union, ending up in the southern republic of Uzbekistan. As I was reading Raisa’s story, I couldn’t help but admire her resilience and strength. Through Raisa’s eyes, we get a glimpse into the hardships Jewish refugees had to endure behind the frontline. So many books are written about concentration camps and Jewish ghettos, but there are very few accounts that show the Soviet side of Jewish refugees’ tragic history, and meanwhile, such stories shed light on the events that definitely need to be studied and discussed. Eye-opening, meticulously researched, and so very inspiring, The Girl with the Silver Star is a true must-read. Highly recommended!”
Goodreads Reviewer, Amy C.
“The Girl with the Silver Star is a heartfelt, tense, and moving story of one family’s journey through Russia during WWII. It recounts the author’s great-grandmother‘s struggle to keep her children and parents safe while her husband is fighting on the front lines.
The author’s admiration for her great-grandmother comes through on every page, as well as the power of family ties and the strength that carries through generations. While I’ve certainly never gone through anything like them, I could completely relate to Raisa and the hardships she endured. I felt her struggles and heartbreaks. Her strength and that of the women around her poured through the pages. I loved this book! And I highly recommend it.” Goodreads Reviewer, Kareen “A story of love, loss, family and lasting friendships. This story is beautifully written and it will make you laugh, cry, get angry and want to love and be loved; hallmarks of a great story. The main character Raisa and her necklace are symbols of purity and reflect the themes of: good vs. evil, love and heroism. This story is more endearing because of its simple narrative; yet, depicts the complexities of war (WWII to be precise). Raisa’s journey, while fleeing the ravishes of war, demonstrates the journey that many must take in life, to flee the negatives of their past, to embrace the joys of their future. Survival is critical and only the strong survives is also a true reflection of this tale.” Goodreads Reviewer, Bec R.“The Girl with the Silver Star follows the story of an innocent family who are thrust into terror during WWII.
Its a fight for survival when mother Raisa and father Abraham are forced to fight for the safety and lives of their two young children, when the family are forced to flee from their home from the bombs, chaos and destruction.
When her husband Abraham is sent to fight on the front lines, Raisa is left to protect the children all by herself.
Their personal story covers just some of the horrors the Jews endured and the struggles that they faced during the war.
The details in the story drew me right in alongside them as they fought for survival.
This book had me in tears with the heartbreaking trials the family were made to overcome and the atrocities they witnessed in order to stay alive.
It is a stark reminder that humanity is equal despite our different races and religions and that we should always treat each other with kindness and love.
With real handwritten letters between husband and wife interwoven throughout the book, The Girl with the Silver Star is a story that will stand the test of time. I absolutely loved this book and I highly recommend it!”
Goodreads Reviewer, Chryssie“Oh my goodness, what a STUNNING novel
I felt emotional the entire way through reading this and found it so hard to put down.
This gorgeous book recounts the story of Raisa who is forced to flee toward safety with her two daughters, sisters and parents in tow after her husband and soulmate Abraham has been ordered to fight on the front lines.
This stunning story tells of the struggles, heartache and loss that they experienced throughout the years of World War II. It broke my heart, it made me feel tense and anxious, it had me close my eyes and shake my head in shock and sadness over what I had just read. It bought tears to my eyes several times and it also made me cry!
But the book is full of beauty too. The love between Raisa and Abraham is beautiful, the bonds between family, the friendships, the strength, the bravery.. All of it, simply beautiful.
This is a stunning book, and it is a must read. 5 beautiful, emotional, well deserved stars for this one! “
Goodreads Reviewer, Andrew
“This was the best WWII book about iron will and triumphant spirit I’ve read. The emotional stress and description of worry for one’s family was captured perfectly. Modern anxiety is nothing compared to Raisas anxiety. The inspiring love made me care for and treasure my own family more truly. Rachel Zolotov filled in gaps about her grandmother most cleverly as she pieced together the legacy of her family. I truly appreciated the positive light she cast on faith, love, tradition and respect for each other.”
Goodreads Reviewer, Shorti
“I absolutely loved this book. “The Girl with the Silver Star” is an extremely powerful MUST READ story about one family’s journey during WWll. It speaks to the author’s great-grandmother’s perseverance, courage, and unwavering love through this unprecedented time. Being a Russian immigrant myself, this story felt very personal. I felt every possible emotion, some more than others (I.e. tears were shed on multiple occasions). I highly recommend reading this book.”
Goodreads Reviewer, Wendy
“The Girl with the Silver Star by Rachel Zolotov is an absolute must read based on a true love story that takes you on a journey exposing humanity’s atrocious tendencies during war times. Set in WWII, the story follows a family of Belarussians from Minsk, as they navigate through the tough terrains of a war torn country, risking everything in hopes of finding a safe home. Many of us have heard stories of Polish and German Jews during this era, but this novel gives insight on the sufferings of Russian Jews as told through the sweet persona of Raisa, the author’s real life great grandmother. You uncover just how fragile humankind is, but also discover how strong a wife, a sister, a daughter, and a mother can be when confronted at wits end.
I loved how the chapters alternate between Raisa’s pre-war memories and current events as they unfold. The writing throughout is full of vivid imagery that transforms your imagination to the utmost emotional outcomes. I found the inclusion of cooking recipes, Jewish traditions, and war events were perfectly interweaved into the story, so that you did not feel lost reading it no matter your religion or historical knowledge. As in all dramatic thrillers, there is a plot twist, which you will surely find exhilarating!
If there ever was a need to validate the strength of women during war times, it is exemplified in this novel through the many women that cross Raisa’s path. I felt empowered knowing that her strength was based on real events and real actions she took to protect her family. Such a wonderful novel to satisfy your soul, especially if you ever doubted whether true love exists.”
Goodreads Reviewer, Aastha Anand
“For the first time I was reading a historical fiction and I didn’t know what to expect from it. But as I started reading the book the story started flowing differently hooking me to it. The writing style was really good. I could imagine everything through the writing style- the love, the pain, the fear, the happiness, little moments of joy and relief in between the struggles of life and hope for things to get back to normal. I really appreciate the authors efforts being put here to reach this story of struggle of her ancestors to other people.”
Goodreads Reviewer, Stacy
“Wow!!! This is a must read for those who enjoy the World War 2 Era subject and want to feel a connection to possibly their own history.
What makes this story different is that it focuses on the refugees of Minsk and their struggles during the war. I have read several books about War World 2 set in Paris, in Germany and America but not about the Russian aspect. I had no idea so many men were drafted into the Red Army while their wives and children had to escape and survive by themselves.
Ms. Zolotov found letters from her great grandparents and pieced together their lives during this tumultuous time. The love between the two main characters, Raisa and Abraham, comes through in her writing. Raisa is, undoubtedly, the epitome of a strong woman. She managed to save her family and keep them going when all hope seemed lost. This character will stay with me for quite some time.
The fact that this book is based on true events that occurred in Ms. Zolotov’s own family makes me want to research my own history. I felt such a connection to the characters of this book.”
Goodreads Reviewer, Rebecca
“This is an exceptionally well-written story of one refugee’s experience through WW2. The story is written with such clear visuals that it was easy for me to feel like I was alongside the main character. Reading through, I felt a broad range of emotions and found myself laughing, seething, and crying in one sitting! Would be amazing to see a movie adaptation at some point in the future!”
Among Candles and Tea Blog, Lin
“Such a moving and stunning story
This novel tells the story of Raisa and her Jewish family and how they coped with WWII in the Soviet Union.
I love books set in the World Wars, even more, when they are true or based on true stories. That’s why The Girls with the Silver Star called my eye immediately, and it didn’t disappoint me at all! It’s such a stunning novel that you won’t be able to put down.
Rachel has a writing style that just immerses you in the story so perfectly that you feel what Raisa feels you laugh with her, you worry with her, you smile with her, you love with her, and you cry with her. Rachel writes it in such a way that makes you feel you’re actually living the story.
The plot is so engaging, I read the whole book with my heart in my hand! and it has such loving characters.
If you like historical fiction or historical romance fiction, this book is for you and you regret reading it! But I warn you, you might need some tissues.
I want to thank Rachel Zolotov for kindly give me a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.”
Goodreads Reviewer, Johanna
“I’m always pulled toward WWII historical fiction, so I was happy to dive into The Girl with the Silver Star. This was a unique perspective of a Soviet Jewish woman, and told a beautiful and heartbreaking story of family, perseverance and hope. Relationships were the shining star for me in this book, husband and wife, mother and daughter, friendship; the development and dimension of relationships made me really connect with Raisa, the main character. I found it inspiring to learn that the author researched her own family’s story to create this book, and I applaud her research and drive!”
Goodreads Reviewer, Madison
“This book was just. Wow. I felt so attached emotionally to the book the main character the entire time. The way the book was written was in a way I never had imagined. It was romantic and heartbreaking all at the same time. She was able to stay strong and I almost felt like i was right there with Raisa the whole time.
The way she carried herself for her children and carried on each day was amazing. Reading about how in love she was with her husband almost makes you grateful for you own (if you have one of course) and feel all of those sparks and butterflies and your imagination wanders. There was something so amazing and yet so tragic about each part but it was like looking into a dusty minefield and seeing a single daisy sprout. There was brightness and a glow about the way the story drove itself through the darkness that ww2 was.
Thank you for giving me the priviledge to read such a book! It truly was rather amazing.”
Goodreads Reviewer, Becky
“Amazing historical novel based on Rachel Zolotov’s family’s life in WW II. Her great grandmother, Raisa, had a happy life, met her soulmate, Abraham,and started a family. Then the war reached her. The Girl with the Silver Star follows Raisa and her daughters Luba and Sophia’s journey through Russia to survive the war and the horrific conditions that Jews faced. Abraham’s letters to Raisa are difficult to read but they are actual letters he sent. There is so much love and kindness shared during all of the hardships, that must be the family’s source of strength. So glad I received a promotional copy of The Girl with the Silver Star and that Rachel is able to share her family’s history with us.”
Goodreads Reviewer, Irene
“This is an eye opening book that shows no matter what happened, faith, love and hope always prevails. The story is centered on the author’s great grandmother’s family whose lives were turned upside down and torn apart during WWII. Abraham and Raisa had to evacuate their family in order to stay alive. They got separated and it was up to Raisa to keep her family and her 2 children stay alive. They endured days of walking on foot, cattle style train rides, refugee camps, and living in a foreign land one after another. The emotions are real and it kept reminding me how love and kindness always win in the end. I highly recommend this book!!!”
Goodreads Reviewer, Megan
“I really enjoyed reading this book! This is a great read for anyone who enjoys WWII era fiction. “The Girl With The Silver Star” is a historical novel based on the struggle Raisa and her family had to endure during WWII as a Soviet Jewish family. The way Rachel Zolotov portrays her family’s journey makes you feel as if you are right there alongside them while they experience so much love, hope and heartbreak. It’s a beautiful story!”
Goodreads Reviewer, Orna
“It was an honor and a pleasure to be introduced to Mrs. Zolotov’s loving, courageous and determined family through her beautifully written book, “The Girl with the Silver Star.” It is both a heartbreaking and beautiful story of her family’s forced journey from their home in Minsk to avoid murder during WWII. Mrs. Zolotov’s writing style allows the reader to imagine the love, despair, fear, loneliness, bravery, grace and gratitude that members of her multigenerational family experienced without becoming overwhelmed. The story was so engaging that I did not want to put it down, nor did I want it to end. There were many priceless lessons about the power of love, perseverance, and the generosity of strangers that were a much needed comfort and reminder in our current climate… It is so important to bear witness, so such atrocities will not repeat themselves. I felt as though this book was a gift and I highly recommend it!!!”
Goodreads Reviewer, Ma Li
“This moving novel takes the reader through an earth shattering journey, as Raisa, a Russian Jew, and her family, are forced to flee their home at the beginning of WWII, in order to survive. It is a remarkable journey, based on real life events, that illustrates the power of a mother’s love, strength and heart, perseverance of the human spirit, and a message of hope in humanity. This story catches your breath, and you won’t rest until you have finished the last word of this novel, as your heart hurts with ebbs and flows of Raisa’s fate. This story makes history come alive right in front of our eyes, and reminds us to take nothing for granted and to appreciate what we have. What a life changing read!”