Tag Archives: fact based fiction

Book Review: Cilka’s Journey – Story of Survival Against All Odds

Cilka’s Journey

By Heather Morris

What would you do if your saviors became your captors? At nineteen that is what happened to Cecilia Kline. The young girl was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau aboard one of the infamous death trains. Sixteen at the time, she found a way to survive the camp. But when that the Soviets liberated those that survived, they claimed Cecilia, known to her friends as Cilka, was an enemy of the state. Therefore, instead of freedom, Cilka is going from one imprisonment to another – Vorkuta, a Soviet Gulag. Also known as the White Hell, it was located in the Arctic Circle.

She is confused and angry. Only doing what she had to for survival, she is now condemned for the life she was forcibly thrust into by the Nazis. Once again, convicted without a trial she will pay for the perceived crimes of spying, prostitution and working with the enemy. She is sentenced to 15 years hard labor for merely trying to survive the atrocities of the Nazis. Many things in her life are shattered, but not her soul. She is a survivor.

In a place where prisoners rarely survived the extreme cold and backbreaking work, Cilka is befriended by Yelena, one of the doctors working for the Soviets. However, she is different from most of the other doctors. Instead of being assigned to the Gulag because of misconduct or some other offense, she is there because she chose to be there to help those that needed help in the brutal conditions. Yelena soon discovered that Cilka was smart and learned quickly. So began Cilka’s nursing career, which also gave her the knowledge and ability to help her fellow prisoners. Her life was still a living hell, but she found a way to survive.

Because the characters are based upon actual people, their stories impact the readers deeply. The places are real, and bring the readers into the camps. Death and demoralization breaks the characters by chipping away at them physically and mentally until they are mere shadows of themselves. With the help of the author, they will live on in the thoughts and minds of each person that reads this powerful story.

This novel is based on the real life of Cecilia Klein. Copious research has been done by the author to bring her story to life. Ms. Morris personalizes the horrors of the concentration camps as well as the Gulag. It is understood that no one can fully comprehend what happened to millions during the Holocaust, but books like Cilka’s Journey help us remember and warn us to never allow such atrocities to happen again.

Cilka’s Journey is the second book I’ve read by Heather Morris. The first was The Tattooist of Auschwitz. The books can be read in either order. Since Cilka’s Journey is not released until October 1, 2019, you may want to reserve your copy now and then read The Tattooist of Auschwitz first as it is available now.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Bookish First in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: We Were Killers Once – A Haunting Thriller

We Were Killers Once

By Becky Masterman

Truman Capote is famous for his “fictional novel” In Cold Blood. Becky Masterman will soon be known for her novel, We Were Killers Once. Capote writes of two men that worked together slaughtering two families for no discernible reason. Masterman tells of a third man that could have been the instigator and true killer during robberies gone bad.

First of all, Masterman acknowledges We Were Killers Once is a work of fiction. But, she has also done copious research of the murders of the Clutter family and the Walker family in 1959. There is mention of an unnamed boy in the records of the two famous murders. This boy, Jackson Beaufort, is the focus of Masterman’s novel.

Bridget Quinn, former FBI Agent is obsessed with the murders of the Clutter and Walker families. She is only six-years-old when she first hears about the deaths and time has only increased her obsession. Her husband Carlo also has a tenuous link to Hickock and Smith from when he was a priest working in the prison system. Little do they know  their lives may be in danger from the very man that had a part in these brutal murders.

Jeremiah Randolph Beaufort is getting out of jail. He has been incarcerated on and off since he was twelve and shot his little brother. He claimed the killing was an accident, but no one believed him. After reform school his parents would not let him come home, so he lived with his grandfather before striking out on his own and hooking up with two men, Richard Eugene Hickock and Perry Smith when he is barely in his teens.

After his time with Hickock and Smith, he becomes a drug dealer/thief until the “three strikes “ law puts him behind bars for life. His good behavior set him free as an old man. On a mission to make sure the new DNA tests don’t put him back behind bars or on death row, Beaufort needs to find documents that Hickock and Smith may have left behind that could tie him to the 1959 murders.

Beaufort, Bridget and Carlo will intersect and then collide with one another as the story heats up. This page turning thriller will keep you up at night both reading and wondering about the true story behind the fiction.

Be sure to read the Author’s Note at the end of the book. Masterman explains the parts of her story that are based on facts and what is pure entertaining fiction. She has researched documents from the crimes and shares what she has learned. She also recommends further reading because We Were Killers Once will undoubtedly spark your interest about the events in 1959. I read In Cold Blood in the 1960’s but am going to listen to it again on audible. There are several other books, films and even a crime series that was aired in 2018 about these murders. I find myself thinking about this book wanting to know more – you will too. It is a puzzle unlikely to be solved, but you can draw your own conclusions after diving into these books.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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