Publication date: July 23, 2013 by Greenleaf Book Group Press
Source: Review copy provided by author/publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for an honest reveiw
The gripping story of Gracianna–a French-Basque girl forced to make impossible decisions after being recruited into the French Resistance in Nazi-occupied Paris.
Gracianna is inspired by true events in the life of Trini Amador’s great-grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga. As an adult, Amador was haunted by the vivid memory of finding a loaded German Luger tucked away in a nightstand while wandering his great-grandmother’s home in Southern California. He was only four years old at the time, but the memory remained and he knew he had to explore the story behind the gun.
Decades later, Amador would delve into the remarkable odyssey of his Gracianna’s past, a road that led him to an incredible surprise. In Gracianna, Amador weaves fact and fiction to tell his great-grandmother’s story.
Gracianna bravely sets off to Paris in the early 1940s–on her way to America, she hopes–but is soon swept into the escalation of the war and the Nazi occupation of Paris. After chilling life-and-death struggles, she discovers that her missing sister has surfaced as a laborer in Auschwitz. When she finds an opportunity to fight back against the Nazis to try to free her sister, she takes it–even if it means using lethal force.
As Amador tells the imagined story of how his great-grandmother risked it all, he delivers richly drawn characters and a heart-wrenching page-turner that readers won’t soon forget.
Gracianna by Trini Amador is a beautiful book. It is beautiful for several reasons. The cover is just amazing - it catches the eye and the imagination and it is poignant somehow. Just lovely. Gracianna is the fictionalized version of Gracianna's life as her great-grandson imagined it to be after listening to the family's retold memories combined with his own research and questioning. The story feels like just that - a story passed down through the family. I think that in this way also, the book is beautiful. I love a good family story, especially one that is fleshed out, contradicted or substantiated by other family members.
I will admit that when I first started reading Gracianna, I was a little perplexed by the format. It didn't seem to read like a typical novel. However, once I decided that it felt like a family story told over and over again often with almost the exact same phrasing, I began to really get into the story.
The story begins with descriptions of life growing up in the Pyrenees and explains Gracianna's early life with her grandmother Anastasia and sister Constance. Anastasia was a perfectionist and trained Gracianna to be the same way - she strove for perfection in everything she did. The reader is treated to some wonderful descriptions of how sheep ranching worked in the Pyrenees and the traditions and customs of the Basque people who had lived there for so very long. There is history of their people, the area, the various battles, invasions, as well as traditions and the faith of her family and the Basque woven throughout the novel.
I enjoyed the beginning of the novel, but once Gracianna makes her way to Paris and begins her new life, things really got interesting. I was completely drawn into the drama and danger of her life during this chaotic time in France. It is quite the tale and I could easily see this story as a movie. Gracianna ends up working for the French Resistance and has quite an important role to play in her attempt to rescue her sister from a Nazi camp. It has intrigue, danger, spies, rebels, deception and so much action. This story is a great example of the lengths that people will go to in the attempt to rescue someone they love.
Gracianna's sister, Constance, also factors strongly in the novel. She is the dark sheep of the family and doesn't have the same goals in life as her sister. Despite their very different personalities and aspirations, they are still sisters and love each other. Constance makes some decisions that put her in grave danger and then her actions spur a series of horrible events that ends with her being sent to a Nazi camp. The incident illustrates just how precarious life was for people - especially women - living in Paris at the time of the Nazi occupation. Constance had her own kind of strength and I was really pulled into her story of survival of the events leading up to and then inside Auschwitz. Another example of beauty in the book is evidenced in both sisters, Gracianna and Constance, who were examples of strength, determination, loyalty, and love.
I found Gracianna to be a wonderful family tale that manages to develop complex characters that the reader can empathize with and understand. The relationships seem authentic and deep. I found the novel as a whole to be so compelling and I think the fact that it is based on a true family story made it so much more engaging.
Anyone who enjoys historical fiction, books about WWII, the French Resistance, and family histories will enjoy this amazing story of this young Basque woman who would stop at nothing to help get her sister out of a Nazi camp.
About the AuthorTrini Amador vividly remembers the day he found a loaded German Luger tucked away in a nightstand while wandering through his great-grandmother’s home in Southern California. He was only four years old at the time, but the memory remained and he knew he had to explore the story behind the gun. This experience sparked a journey towards Gracianna, Amador’s debut novel, inspired by true events and weaving reality with imagination. It’s a tale drawing from real-life family experiences.
Mr. Amador is a traveled global marketing “insighter.” He is a sought-after guru teaching multinational brand marketers to understand how customer and consumer segments behave based on their needs, values, motivations, feeling and values. He has trained over five thousand brand marketers on how to grow brands in over 20 countries in the last 15 years. His counseling has been valued at global brands including General Electric, Microsoft, AT&T, Yahoo!, Sun Microsystems, Google, Jack Daniel’s, The J.M. Smucker Co., DuPont, Mattel, and Rodale, Inc..
Amador is also a founding partner with his wife and children of Gracianna Winery, an award-winning winery located in Healdsburg, California. The winery also pays tribute to the Amador Family’s maternal grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga. Her message of being thankful lives on through them. The Gracianna winery strives to keep Gracianna’s gratitude alive through their wine. Learn more at: www.gracianna.com, like Gracianna Winery on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @GraciannaWinery.
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