Saturday, May 21, 2022

Book Blitz and Giveaway: The Memory Keeper of Kyiv by Erin Litteken

Title: The Memory Keeper of Kyiv
Author: Erin Litteken
Publisher: Boldwood Books
Publication Date: May 16th 2022
Print Length: 373 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction

Perfect for fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz and The Beekeeper of Aleppo.

“A powerfully moving debut . . . Ukraine’s tragic history painfully echoes its current crisis, and on every page the Ukrainian spirit shines out, unbowed, unbent and unbroken. This is a compelling, timely read.” Kate Quinn, author of The Rose Code

In the 1930s, Stalin’s activists marched through the Soviet Union, espousing the greatness of collective farming. It was the first step in creating a man-made famine that, in Ukraine, stole almost 4 million lives. Inspired by the history the world forgot, and the Russian government denies, Erin Litteken reimagines their story.

In 1929, Katya is 16 years old, surrounded by family and in love with the boy next door. When Stalin’s activists arrive in her village, it’s just a few, a little pressure to join the collective. But soon neighbors disappear, those who speak out are never seen again and every new day is uncertain.

Resistance has a price, and as desperate hunger grips the countryside, survival seems more a dream than a possibility. But, even in the darkest times, love beckons.

Seventy years later, a young widow discovers her grandmother’s journal, one that will reveal the long-buried secrets of her family’s haunted past.

This is a story of the resilience of the human spirit, the love that sees us through our darkest hours and the true horror of what happened during the Holodomor.

“I never imagined the release of my novel on a past oppression of the Ukrainian people would coincide with such a parallel tragedy.” Erin Litteken

May we never forget, lest history repeat itself.

A share of proceeds will be donated to DEC’s Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.

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...a gunshot cracked through the night air. The food basket slipped from Katya’s fingers and spilled onto the frozen ground. She raced down the moonlit path toward her aunt and uncle’s house, the bread and soup forgotten. Alina yelled for her to stop, but Sasha’s screams rang louder and kept Katya’s feet moving.

Alina’s long legs reached her easily and she tackled Katya to the ground. They landed in a snowdrift next to the barn, hidden from view. Katya’s pulse pounded in her ears, and terror made her body shake.

“Stop, Katya!” Alina hissed into her ear. “We have to get out of here!”

Limbs tangled, and their heavy coats twisted around them like a vice, but it didn’t keep Katya from trying to wrestle away from Alina. Her arm throbbed where Alina’s hand dug into it.

“No!” Katya wrenched her left leg from under Alina and rolled onto her stomach. Snow made its way into her boots and under the thick skirt she wore, the icy crystals numbing her legs. “We have to help them!” The restrained whisper made her throat ache.

Katya ripped off her coat, popping the buttons, and scrambled away from Alina. Sasha’s screams quieted to a whimper but still hung heavy in the air over their uncle’s quiet pleading.

“Please!” Alina begged as she grabbed Katya’s leg. “You know it’s too late for them! What do you think will happen if you run out there?”

Katya hesitated. Her sister was right, but how could she live with herself if she did nothing, just like everyone else?

“You will be killed,” Alina said, answering her own question when Katya didn’t. “And then what? What will become of Mama and Tato if they lose you, too? We need to go home, now!”

Her reference to their parents stopped Katya in her tracks. “I can’t. You can go if you want. I need to at least see what happens. We can peek around the corner of the barn and not be seen.”

Alina wrung her hands and looked in the direction of their home. “Fine. But we stay together. Don’t try to leave me again.”

The full moon reflecting on the snowy ground illuminated the scene in front of the girls. Two burly OGPU men in tall black boots and dark overcoats dragged their sobbing aunt out of the house. Already in her bed clothes and without a coat, Aunt Oksana flinched as the snow touched her bare skin.

Two other men stood in the yard with their pistols pointed at Uncle Marko. One, a small and skinny activist, looked to be Katya’s age. His pale face showed the shadows of a faint mustache, and he glanced at the older grizzled man next to him for direction.

Sasha, with her baby brother Denys in her arms, stood in the same spot Katya had sat with Sasha on her sister Olha’s wedding day only a few months before. Sasha’s older brother, Serhiy, nearly a grown man, stood behind them, closer to the house. When his mother struggled in the snow, he moved to help her.

“Stay right there!” The younger activist pointed his gun at Serhiy. It wobbled in his grip. “Or this time we shoot to kill!”

“She’s sick. That’s why she didn’t come out with us.” Serhiy held his hands up in the air while he took slow steps toward his mother. “I’m just going to help her.”

The younger activist lowered his arm slightly, as if he accepted Serhiy’s response. The other activist did not. He pointed his weapon and shot Serhiy.

When the gun went off, Katya lunged forward, her lips parting to yell for Serhiy to run, even though it was too late. Before she could get a sound out, Alina’s hand clamped over her mouth. She pulled Katya against her chest, her heart pounding in Katya’s ear, as they watched Serhiy fall. He landed on a bed of fresh, untouched snow. His blood spilled fast, spreading into a circle of scarlet around his motionless body.

“Never accept insolence from these people. It makes you look weak,” barked the man who had pulled the trigger. The young man nodded, his mouth hanging open and his eyes glued to the pool of blood seeping out around Katya’s cousin.
Erin Litteken is a debut novelist with a degree in history and a passion for research. At a young age, she was enthralled by stories of her family’s harrowing experiences in Ukraine before, during and after World War II. She lives in Illinois, USA with her husband and children.

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Win an eBook or audiobook of The Memory Keeper of Kyiv by Erin Litteken!

(All the Ups and Downs is not responsible for this giveaway, its entries, or the prize. Xpresso Book Tours assumes all responsibility over this giveaway.)

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  1. The excerpt is tragic and exciting. Kiev is again in the news nowadays.

  2. Do you have any advice for new writers?