Thursday, March 29, 2012

Looking for Sarah / M. G. Silver

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Historical

Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words

Kindle US:
YES UK: YES Nook: YES Smashwords: YES Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store


This description is stolen from Silver’s biography on Smashwords. Although fiction, Looking for Sarah shares much with Silver’s own story.

I was born in Moscow, USSR into a Soviet Jewish family. As most Soviet Jews in those days, I grew up afraid to speak my last name for fear of being recognized a Jew, the most despised minority in the country. Kindergartens and schools didn’t discourage anti-Semitic remarks from both students and teachers and so Jewish children had to fend for themselves. The answer was to remain as invisible as one could possibly master.

Invisibility was the norm among the adults as well. My parents, their parents, their friends, uncles and cousins were nearly all engineers -- a profession that was dull, harmless and, most importantly for the Soviet government, safe enough to entrust to Jews. So for the lack of better opportunities, I also began to study engineering. When the changes of perestroika and glastnost swept through the Soviet Union and Jewish emigration rules were relaxed, I convinced my family to leave. After much discussion we left Moscow on October 19, 1989 – stripped of our Soviet citizenship, with six suitcases, and $180 to our names. Our departure proceeded the fall of the Berlin Wall only by three weeks.

Since my arrival I completed my education in the field that was as far from engineering as I could get. I’ve taken advantage of my freedom and I have worked and lived all over the world. And I finally took off my “invisibility” cloak and I decided to write about my experiences.

For more, visit Silver’s blog.


In the early part of the twentieth century Sarah’s family flees Russia, looking for a better life in Argentina. Accidentally left behind, Sarah survives through the Russian Revolution, Stalin’s purges, and the Holocaust, eventually getting a chance to defect and reunite with her family who previously escaped, but also having to leave other family behind.

Years later that decision comes back to haunt Sonya, Sarah’s granddaughter, who is growing up during the 1970s in a Russia that is changed, but not nearly enough.


Philosopher George Santayana said, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This quote and various misquotes (using ‘history’ instead of ‘the past’ the most common), has become cliché, probably because it is so true. One way to remember is through books that, while fictional, educate and remind us of what life was like in a certain place and time. In today’s economic climate we would do well re-reading the classic works of Charles Dickens with their mention of debtors’ prisons. The Diary of Anne Frank and more recently The Book Thief educate us about the holocaust. Looking for Sarah is the same kind of book.

This book is the tale of a family of Russian Jews, covering their story from the earliest part of the twentieth century until the 1980s. For readers who grew up in the post-Cold War years, much of this will be new. Older readers will be reminded of the stories they heard growing up of children in the Soviet Union, being encouraged to inform on their parents, and that being a Jew in Russia involved a lot more than fiddling on the roof.

As the subtitle indicates, this is A Story of Survival: at turns haunting and inspirational. Although I can recommend the book for the story, it is in need of a through round of copy-editing. There are many problems with missing or extra words. Sometimes the words feel like they are out of order from what would feel natural for a native English speaker and there are many issues with improper verb tense such that it feels like you’re jumping back and forth in time in a single scene or even paragraph.


Some mild sexual situations.

Format/Typo Issues:

A large number of proofing and copy editing errors. Some specifics discussed in the appraisal section.

Rating: *** Three stars

1 comment:

Joansz said...

I hope Silver takes your "needs editing" comment to heart and hires a good freelance editor. The book sounds interesting, and I'll probably sample it, but whether I buy it or not will depend on how well I can ignore the errors.