From Goodreads: Sweeping from post–WWII rural Romania to the cosmopolitan Budapest of 1990, Christina Shea’s Smuggled is the story of Eva Farkas, who loses her identity, quite literally, as a young child, when she is smuggled in a flour sack across the Hungarian border to escape the Nazis.
When five-year-old Eva is trafficked from Hungary to Romania at the end of the war, she arrives in the fictional border town of Crisu, a pocket of relative safety, where she is given the name Anca Balaj by her aunt and uncle, and instructed never to speak another word of Hungarian again. “Eva is dead,” she is told. As the years pass, Anca proves an unquenchable spirit, full of passion and imagination, with a lust for life even when a backdrop of communist oppression threatens to derail her at every turn. Time is layered in this quest for self, culminating in the end of the Iron Curtain and Anca’s reclaiming of the name her mother gave her. When she returns to Hungary in 1990, the country is changing as fast as the price of bread, and Eva meets Martin, an American teacher who rents the apartment opposite hers and cultivates a flock of pigeons on his balcony. As Eva and Martin’s cross-cultural relationship deepens through their endeavor to rescue the boy downstairs from his abusive mother, Eva’s lifelong search for family and identity comes full circle.
Grove/Atlantic, Inc. has been extremely gracious to allow me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release today, and I am very sorry to say that I didn’t like this book. The writing style and the storyline just is not for me. The premise for the novel peaked my interest, but overall I found that the pacing of the story wasn’t to my liking. In my opinion, the novel has a tendency to gloss over events I deem important, while prolonging the events that are more miniscule. I also am not a fan of explicit sex scenes, and while I wouldn’t classify the scenes in this novel as “explicit,” they do happen more often than not, and I personally found that this took away from the story.
While the tale is haunting in its portrayal of life during WWII and the aftermath, including communist oppression and the fact that Jews still had to hide their true identities for years after war had ended, I found myself struggling to connect with Eva/Anca as the story unfolded. I think this is partially due to the pacing of the novel, and partially due to the fact that I didn’t see much development in her character. While I think this story was an interesting look at the life of refugees, it was not what I expected and I found myself disengaged as I read. One star.