Rachel’s Promise

Rachel's Promise9781927583142_p0_v1_s260x420Rachel’s Promise (The Rachel Trilogy)

Shelly Sanders, Author

Second Story Press, Historical Fiction, Sept. 23, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 12 and up

Themes:  Persecution, Russian Jews,  Family, Love, Loss, Separation

SynopsisRachel’s Promise is set in pre-revolutionary Russia, where tensions run high between the Jewish and Christian populations. Vicious riots break out in Kishinev in 1903.  Rachel’s father is killed and her home and Jewish community destroyed.   Her Christian friend Sergei turns against his police chief father, to help 15-year-old Rachel.  (Read my review of Rachel’s Secret here.) Rachel, her mother, sister Nucia, and an adopted brother, Menahem, flee Russia and the brutal riots.  They travel on the Trans-Siberian Railway to the coast where they board a ship to Shanghai, China.  The journey is hard on her mother and she dies in a Shanghai medical facility.  Now it is up to Rachel and her siblings to earn enough money to travel to America.  Although her life becomes one of daily survival, she never gives up her dream of going to school and becoming a journalist.   She discovers a Jewish newspaper in Shanghai and submits articles, earning extra money for the voyage.

Meanwhile, as Rachel flees Russia, Sergei leaves home for a factory job in St. Petersburg to help support his family and earn money to attend the university.  Work in the Russian factories is deplorable and dangerous.  Sergei is injured.  His dream of becoming an architect fades as he realizes the harsh reality of his life.  He joins the growing number of factory workers who are rebelling against the government.  Although separated, Sergei and Rachael continue to communicate through letters and hang on to hope they will be together again.

Why I like this book:  This is the second book in the Rachel Trilogy written by Shelly Sanders.  The trilogy is inspired by the lives of her maternal grandmother, Rachel Talan Geary, and her sister Anna “Nucia” Rodkin, who lived in Kishinev and survived the massacres in 1903.  Sanders has once again written a gripping story set against real historical events.  She tells the story of the Russian Jews who managed to escape Russia under incredible odds to new lives filled with hardship in Shanghai.  Many of the characters in this story did exist.  I learned so much about a period of Russian history I knew little about.  Sanders beautifully balances the alternating stories of Sergei and Rachel, who are mere teenagers caught in the cross-fire of persecution during extreme political upheaval.  Her main characters are authentic, with each having a very distinct voice.  The book is a page-turner.

Visit Shelly Sander’s at her website.  I look forward to her third upcoming novel in the trilogy, Rachel’s Hope.  After two years in Shanghai, Rachael and her family save enough money to pay for passage on a ship sailing to San Francisco.  Follow her journey and new life in America.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

28 thoughts on “Rachel’s Promise

  1. I’m putting this one on my list, too. And moving it up. I’ve started writing the sequel to Song, and I’ve got to do a better job balancing a little reading and relaxing or I’m going to burn out long before spring. This series looks right up my alley.


    • Michelle, you will love the first book. We have similar tastes in reading, so knowing that it based on the story of her grandmother and aunt with some fiction, makes it even more interesting. The second book is a continuation of the journey. Can’t wait for the third book.


    • Juliana, if you like historical fiction, you will love learning about this period of history that wasn’t taught in school about Russian History. Then to have the granddaughter write a story around her grandmother and aunt’s experience, adds another dimension. Hope you enjoy it!


  2. This sounds brilliant. It is the stuff of movies. So many suffered during the pogroms against the Jews in pre-revolutionary Russia. It is important that the world knows how hard other people’s lives can be and how brave their struggle.


    • It is a remakable series. Yes, many suffered during the pogroms. And Shelly’s family has a connection with the historical events of the time, which enabled her to share that story through Rachael and Sergei. She is writing the books for her children from the memories of loved ones and the journeys they made.


    • The narrative is written in third person, so I would say omniscient. Her grandmother, aunt and mother provided most of the memories, and Shelly did a lot of research. So many characters mentioned, like the Jewish newspaper editor, were real. She wrote the trilogy for her children so they understood the spirit and resilience of their ancestors.


  3. I love books based on historical events. This series sounds very good. I just finished reading the Book Thief (YA) which was so very good. Another good book for children I discovered was Making Bombs For Hitler. All of these books demonstrate the resiliency of young people in terrible circumstances. I think it is important for children to read about these times in history and to be exposed to strong characters. I will check these books out.


    • Yes, I share your passion. It’s an excellent series. I haven’t read the Book Thief and I just ran across Making Bombs for Hitler. Maybe I should check them out. I love stories about resiliency of young people during difficult time. Thanks for the tweet.


  4. Pingback: Rachel’s Hope | Children's Books Heal

  5. Pingback: Best Holocaust Books for Kids

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