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Lost Roses by Martha Hall Relly. Ballentine Books 2019. 421 pp.

This is an historical novel set in Russia, which begins in 1914 just as World War I is about to start. It is the story of three women, Eliza, a wealthy woman from the United States, Sofya, a Russian also a wealthy woman who has a connection to the Romanovs, and Varinka, a fortune teller’s daughter.

Eliza had been in Russia visiting her friend Sofya, but manages to get back to the United States just as Austria declares war on Siberia. She loses contact with Sofya and spends the rest of the war trying to find out what happened to her and eventually helps White Russian families who’ve escaped to the United States, but have lost everything and are destitute.

In the meantime, Sofya and her family have gone back to their country estate in the south near the village of Malinov and have hired Varinka to be one of their domestic staff. Quickly things begin to go badly. It is not just the soldiers fighting in the war, but people who were poor under the Romanov’s rule and now see the opportunity to seek revenge. And as we see in our own country this gives thugs an excuse to loot and rob. In this case, though, it becomes much much worse than that. There is torture and death and unspeakable cruelty. Some of it is so brutal that it is even difficult to read about.

Sofya does escape the carnage and spends months trying to get to safety and find out what has happened to her infant son Max. Varinka has also escaped, and Max is with her.

I did think this novel was very worth reading, although it did seem a little too long, but there was a lot to be covered. 

– C.M.

Until Tuesday by Luis Montalvan. Hachette Books 2011. 252 pp.

The two main characters in this book are the author Luis Carlos Montalvan and his dog Tuesday. Luis was born in Cuba, but when Castro took over the country the Montalvan family left for the United States.

 Luis was not raised in a military family. His father was an economist and his mother a business executive.They expected him to go to college and choose a career as his brother and sister had. But Luis believed that the world should be much better than it was, and one way to help was to join the army. He did go to college, but also enlisted in the army, and enrolled in the officer training camp at Georgetown University.

In 2003, trouble broke out in Iraq and got worse and worse. Luis would serve two tours of duty in the years there, and be promoted to captain. But in the second tour he was badly injured and sent back to America. After his treatment at the hospital he would suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

And now the story of this lovable dog. Tuesday was born at East Coast Assistant Dogs (ECAD), an organization founded by Lu Picard, another person we will learn about. ECAD raises puppies to be service dogs. Tuesday’s training would begin when he was a tiny puppy, and it was amazing the way a dog learned to be a helper and an assistant. The reader cannot help but be attracted to Tuesday. Meanwhile Luis has been having a difficult time and feeling miserable. He has met several men with service dogs, and he wonders if this might help him. So he goes to ECAD and talks with Lu Picard. She will place him with Tuesday.

It takes a while for Luis and Tuesday to train together, but they are strongly attracted to each other and will grow to love one another. The happiness of the two of them reverberates in such a way, that people seeing them together are deeply affected. The final chapter is very moving.  

            – P.M.

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