This is the life story of Eva Farkas, a Hungarian child who is smuggled across the border into Romania in order to escape the Nazis. Her name is now Anca Balaj, and she lives with her aunt and uncle.
The book spans the decades, from the end of the war until the fall of the Iron Curtain. As someone who was a child (I turned 10 in 1990), very little of this time period is at all familiar. I hardly remember the fall of the Berlin Wall, though I do remember Gorbachev. I know little of Hungary or Romania either.
As a result, this book was an eye-opener for me, as I hadn’t considered what life would be like in a Soviet/Communist state. Nor had I thought much about the corruption, the lack of opportunity, and the results of defection to the West (and what it brought to those left behind.) Eva/Anca’s struggle to make something of herself and escape the drudgery of manual labour was compelling.
The book is not overly dramatic, but the events and struggle of Eva keep you reading, even when things seem most dire. Her ingenuity and continual efforts to succeed keep you cheering her on, wanting to see how she’ll manage. And manage she does – whether it is by playing table tennis, living with an old dentist who fixes her teeth in exchange for pretending to be his dead wife, or making a marriage of convenience.
I highly recommend reading Smuggled for its demonstration of the strength of human determination in the face of difficulty.
Released by Grove/Atlantic, July 2011.