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Smuggled: A Novel Paperback – July 5, 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press, Black Cat (July 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802170862
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802170866
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #818,389 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“The narrative follows tenacious protagonist [Eva] through fifty years of her harrowing, yet resilient, life and the devastating historical periods of Communism, the Holocaust, and the oppression of Nicolae Ceausescu, the cruel secretary general of the Romanian Communist Party. Shea’s elegant, pared-down prose . . . takes a significant slice of history and adroitly contains it into a tight, intimate story, where Eva collects bits and pieces of her shattered self, and stitches together a life of new possibility and humanity.” —Boston Globe

"[Written] in poetic and emotionally restrained language . . . Evocative . . . Lyrical . . . An engaging read . . . Shea demonstrates her mastery of physical description and realistic detail."—Washington Indepdent Review of Books

"Shea does an excellent job of capturing the individuality at the heart of a war that most readers know only from textbook summaries. . . . A satisfying read." —Kirkus Reviews

"Compelling . . . Affecting . . . Reveals how history can impact individual lives." –New York Journal of Books

“Delivers a sure sense of . . . totalitarianism’s capacity to grind down the soul. . . . With a luminous ending.” —Library Journal

"Surprising yet realistic . . . Shea's often painful chroncile is conveyed in beautifully sculpted language, alive with vivid prose and intricately layered metaphor. . . . But what might be a grim tale rises above its brutal context on delicate wings. Eva's indomitable spirit provides the message of hope that gives this honest account the sheen of magic every story needs. When I had finished reading the book, I had the urge to pres it on someone else. It is a book to love and to share. Pass it on." —Belletrista blog

More About the Author

Christina Shea was born and raised in Hartford, Connecticut, the fourth of eight children. She studied Art and English at Kenyon College and received her MFA from University of Michigan. Shea co-authored the first Frommer's guidebooks to Hungary. Her first book, MOIRA'S CROSSING (St. Martin's Press, 2000), was a Barnes & Noble Discover selection. Her new novel, SMUGGLED, was published by Grove Atlantic in July, 2011. Shea lives with her family in Boston.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
5 star
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See all 11 customer reviews
She makes compromises that are necessary to her welfare.
Her unpretentious narrative enlightens and envelopes the reader with colorful witticisms to compensate for the inevitability of painful passages.
I. Yeates
I give it two stars instead of one because I was compelled enough to finish it.
AZ canyonhiker

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Maura Crowley on June 21, 2011
Format: Paperback
In her vivid and elegant prose, Shea creates a gripping story of a woman's survival and search for identity in Hungary and Romania during World War II, the Cold War, and right up to the end of Communist rule in the 1990s. Told from the unique perspective of Eva/Anca, a Hungarian Jew, who as a child is smuggled across the border into Romania and given a completely new identity, the story is packed with memorable details of everyday life in Romania under Communist Rule . . . waiting in long lines for exotic bananas, subsisting on soup and tea, and the rarity and excitement of her first tennis ball. Though she does not have an easy life, Eva/Anca is a survivor, and when, as an adult, she returns to Hungary to confront her past, the reader is silently hoping that she will find some semblance of happiness, contentment, and peace. I wasn't disappointed. The novel is beautifully written and tightly woven, but where Shea really succeeds is in creating a character that you care about and a story that compels you to keep turning the pages. I loved it!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Christina (A Reader of Fictions) TOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 30, 2011
Format: Paperback
What drew me to this book was the WWII setting. This era has long been my favorite historical time period to read about and study, perhaps surpassed in recent years by the Vietnam War era but perhaps not. Anyway, the WWII aspects, primarily of Eva's smuggling, were definitely really interesting. Even more intriguing, though, was reading the story of her life in Romania, of the myriad terrible things she had to do to survive.

Although the first third of the book details Anca's childhood, this is most definitely not a book intended for young readers. The themes are dark and only get darker as Anca grows up. Speaking of that, be forewarned that this story is gritty and painful and violent at times. It involves scenes of rape and prostitution. History isn't always pretty, which, I think, people generally know, but this is a side that isn't always as focused on. Eva/Anca (her Romanian name) has such an amazing spirit to have made it through all that she did. Despite all of the awful things she goes through, she retains the ability to trust and to love, which is incredibly inspiring. Nor does her character seem at all fake or overly optimistic; she's just a really strong person.

If you love books about the war or about life under the Soviet regime, you should not miss this one. It's beautifully written and completely fascinating from the first pages.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 100 REVIEWER on July 2, 2011
Format: Paperback
In 1943, five-year-old Éva Farkas is hidden in a sack of flour and smuggled by train across the Hungarian border. From there Éva is transported to a Romanian village that was once part of Hungary. Her father's sister, Kati, has agreed to keep her. Éva's mother is Jewish but the village has already been searched so Kati believes Éva will be safe. Kati gives Éva a new identity -- Anca Balaj, the fictitious niece of Kati's husband Ilie -- and tells Éva she is now a Romanian and must never again speak Hungarian. All of this is a dramatic and unwelcome change for Éva, who misses her mother, thinks her new name sounds like glass breaking, and lies in bed "feeling helpless against the invading Romanian." When Éva protests that she is Éva, not Anca, Ilie tells her that "Éva is dead."

So begins Éva's story, a story that is in some respects familiar and in others remarkably fresh. It is a bleak story that is both political and personal, a story that for much of the novel is dominated by isolation and oppression. While it takes place in a part of the world that changes repeatedly during the course of a lifetime, the story derives its power from the impact those changes have on a single person.

In 1947, after Romania falls under Soviet control, Éva secretly befriends a Gypsy boy but loses her friend when his family is driven out of the country. In the early 1950s, Soviet domination and fear of informants join racial and religious intolerance as the defining characteristics of Éva's environment, although growing discord between her aunt and uncle has a more immediate impact on her life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 30, 2011
Format: Paperback
Darn it! I hate reviewing the kind of book that has an eventful story, but flat writing. It starts in 1943 with 5-year-old Éva Farkas being smuggled out of Hungary to Romania to escape the Holocaust. There, she is brought up by a non-Jewish uncle and aunt on her father's side, who change her name to Anca and provide her with false papers. The war ends, but the Communist government imposes new restrictions. Like everybody else, Anca lives in constant fear of denunciation for the smallest offenses, made worse by the secret of her false identity. Nevertheless, she prospers both as a teacher and an athlete, until further setbacks interrupt both careers. In Part III of the book, following the fall of the Berlin Wall, she finally returns home to reclaim her old identity and embark on a life too long postponed.

I can see that this will be a great success with people who read fiction as proxy fact. There is the intrinsic interest of the background history, though you may need to look to other sources to check the conditions in Eastern European countries under the Axis and the various phases of Communist rule in Romania. I can see people approaching Éva/Anca as a real person and entering into a kind of horrified sympathy at the things she needs to do in order to survive. At one point, for example, she concedes sexual favors to an editor who gives her work as a technical translator; by this time, she speaks four languages. But he will not assign her a more literary text. Perhaps he is just being mean, but she also admits a ring of truth: "The crux of it was that she did not really possess a native tongue." The reviewer on this page who described the book as "a woman's search for identity" has it right.
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