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Publisher's Summary

A tour de force historical mystery from Monica Hesse, the best-selling and award-winning author of Girl in the Blue Coat.

Germany, 1945. The soldiers who liberated the Gross-Rosen concentration camp said the war was over, but nothing feels over to 18-year-old Zofia Lederman. Her body has barely begun to heal; her mind feels broken. And her life is completely shattered: Three years ago, she and her younger brother, Abek, were the only members of their family to be sent to the right, away from the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Everyone else - her parents, her grandmother, radiant Aunt Maja - they went left.

Zofia's last words to her brother were a promise: "Abek to Zofia, A to Z. When I find you again, we will fill our alphabet." Now her journey to fulfill that vow takes her through Poland and Germany and into a displaced persons camp where everyone she meets is trying to piece together a future from a painful past: Miriam, desperately searching for the twin she was separated from after they survived medical experimentation. Breine, a former heiress, who now longs only for a simple wedding with her new fiancé. And Josef, who guards his past behind a wall of secrets and is beautiful and strange and magnetic all at once.

But the deeper Zofia digs, the more impossible her search seems. How can she find one boy in a sea of the missing? In the rubble of a broken continent, Zofia must delve into a mystery whose answers could break her - or help her rebuild her world.

©2020 Monica Hesse (P)2020 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"Riveting.... A gripping historical mystery." (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

"Timely...[Hesse] again uses a well-researched historical backdrop to tell a powerful coming-of-age story." (Washington Post)

"Superb.... A satisfying and bittersweet novel, perfect for those who enjoyed Markus Zusak's The Book Thief." (SLJ, starred review)

What listeners say about They Went Left

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Heartbreakingly Beautiful

The war may be over, but for many people the war still haunts them. Zofia Lederman's body has begun healing. She worries that her mind will never heal. She feels that her life is shattered and doesn't feel she is qualified to pick up the pieces. Her brother is missing. She has no idea where to begin finding him. Journeying out on her own to find him, she soon discovers that just because the war is over doesn't mean that the hate and discrimination is. She also discovers that she is not the only one suffering and looking for loved ones. I want to start by saying that this is not a book to pick up if you're looking for a light-hearted and fluffy read. It's very intense. It's deep. It's a book that has the power stick with you and truly make you think of how things were for Jews back then. Most people think that just because the war was over that everybody got a happily ever after. That's very far from the truth. This book demonstrates that. It's dramatic. It's raw. It's true. It's captivating and well worth the read. I read somewhere a criticism that Zofia was a very unreliable narrator. I disagree with this statement for the grounds that it's written from her point of view. It wouldn't be authentic if you weren't following the story as if you were her. I do want to say that I'd of liked to see another point of view in here. Or maybe flashbacks splashed in for context. I really enjoyed hearing Zofia's story. Don't get me wrong. I just wish that some things were from another perspective. Other than that, I can't think of anything I disliked about this book. This book is narrated by Caitlin Davies. She did a beautiful job. I'm curious to know how many times she had to set it aside because the emotions were so overwhelming. She really stepped into Zofia's role. She became Zofia so much. It made the story even more intense and emotional than it already was. I feel like it connected me to the story. Well more so than I already was. I really enjoyed this story so much. It really hit me in the feels so much. I know that this will be a book that sticks with me for a long time. I'll most likely end up reading it a few more times as well. This book is very deep and thought provoking. It inspires you to truly think and experience how life was like for those who survived. It also shows that there will always be tragedy and fortune. Sometimes they interconnect so much that it's hard to fully see what's what. I whole-heartedly recommend this novel.

64 people found this helpful

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Full of sadness along with hope.

Listening to this story would be the only way to read this one. The narrator was perfect and the music interludes were heart wrenching yet spellbinding. I was not prepared for the direction the story went in the end, however it was important to end that way and right. Monica Hesse did incredible research and the story reflects the time she spent telling the story of survivors.

40 people found this helpful

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We must never forget.

A very well written story. This moment in history must never be forgotten. We have an obligation to remind ourselves and future generations of the horrific legacy of WWll and the painful history of the Jewish race.

36 people found this helpful

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They went left

Well written. Sad story. The characters were interesting. Great job with research. Good job . Great!

22 people found this helpful

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A Look at Post WWII Holocaust Survivors

This book was an excellent portrayal of what happened after WWII ended and the various concentration camps were liberated. I believe it's the first book I have read that covers this experience. It is based on actual events and history and Ms. Hesse did extensive research prior to writing this book. While it's a bit "young adult" and there is some teen romance, it is not predictable. I recommend this book as another insight to WWII and the holocaust. There is some profanity, but it's not gratuitous by any means.

6 people found this helpful

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Good story read in an overwrought voice

I liked the idea of the story, but the reader's overwrought voice portrayed the main character as perpetually on the verge of full-on hysteria, even in her calmer moments. It made her irritating and unsympathetic when we should be feeling her pain. I would have like the story more if I had read it myself.

4 people found this helpful

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Amazing..Incredible

I loved this book. The author did an amazing job detailing the story line. It will certainly pull your heart strings!
The narrator, their voice was a perfect match for this book. So easy to listen to.

4 people found this helpful

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They Went Left

They Went Left is a story of the Holocaust, the title a reference to the sorting of Jews, left to extermination.

Plot. Unlike most stories of the Holocaust, this story begins after WWII, 1945. Zofia Lederman, a concentration camp survivor barely alive, is hospitalized. Upon release, her mind broken, her body fragile, and her thoughts a mix of reality, hope, and horrifying images, Zofia begins searching for her 9-yr-old little brother - separated from her on arrival at Auschwitz. The story and characters are fictional. The Holocaust is history; They Went Left is based on fact. Many of the events are witness accounts.

You will learn things you didn't know. Although it's not a big part of this story, the hate of Jews AFTER the war continued, they were not welcomed back to their own homes or neighborhoods - one of the main reasons for migration to Palestine, Israel - anywhere else.

Written by Monica Hesse, narrated by Caitlin Davies, just under ten hours of listening in unabridged audiobook format, released in April 2020 by Little, Brown Young Reader.

Never forget. Recommended.

4 people found this helpful

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I don’t give many across the board 5s

This book was excellent. I say that after having read WWWII books for years. This book gives a little different perspective about Jewish people after the war, about their physical and mental state. It talks about their lives after the war.
The narrator did a wonderful job. Overall, it is a very good historical fiction.

2 people found this helpful

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Wonderful book

This was an inspiring and beautiful story. I highly recommend it for anyone who has dealt with serious trauma at some point in life.

2 people found this helpful