Nora Percival began her life as a pampered, well-loved child in Samara, Russia, on the banks of the Volga River. Her father was a businessman, her mother a talented pianist. Her early years were fun and happy, and Nora was a bubbly, curious child. Soon, though, upheaval overtook her life with the advent of the Russian Revolution. Nora’s father, targeted by the Communist regime, escaped to America, leaving behind Nora and her mother, a woman in fragile health who suffered from depression. The two were forced to move in with Nora’s grandparents, aunts, uncle, and cousins in a small apartment, where food and heat were scarce. Everyone, from the wealthy to the poorest, suffered during this time. Starvation was rampant and Nora’s family became alarmed when first small domestic animals disappeared, then small children. Nora’s father finally managed to get funds to the family, and eventually Nora and her mother sailed to America. But Nora’s mother’s homesickness sent them back across the ocean, only as far as England, where Nora’s mother was hospitalized and Nora ended up first in a work house, then in a hostel for transmigrates, where she anxiously awaited word from her father and longed to be back in America.
What an interesting, wonderful story. Nora is a prodigious child who learns to read at an early age and teaches herself English. Her effervescent personality shines throughout the book, and one feels sorrow for such a young girl forced to live in horrific depravity, while taking on adult responsibilities and caring for her mother, whose depression never lessens. Percival excels at drawing the reader into her story with rich descriptives and prolific insight enmeshed within a period of history that is as fascinating as it is tragic. Historic buffs will appreciate a first-hand look at the events leading up to the Russian Revolution as well as those during and after. Excellent book. Highly recommended.