Night Train to Odessa

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
350 Pages
Reviewed on 04/17/2024
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

Night Train to Odessa by Mary L. Grow is a historical account of life in the city of Odessa during the Russian Civilian War, told through the eyes of a refugee from the countryside searching for her lost children. As civil war approached her tiny rural village in Ukraine, Elvira Maria Andrushko knew that no matter who won the bloody war, the victors would ransack and destroy her village. Left alone with her two young children after her husband had been killed, Elvira Maria realizes their only hope is to evacuate to Odessa. As she and hundreds of other refugees swarm onto the train, she is separated from her beloved son and daughter. She watches in horror as the train departs without them. Catching the next train, Elvira Maria begins searching for her children in the crumbling, corrupt-ridden, harsh city. There, she meets and befriends a traveling puppeteer, Michail Lukashenko, who helps her adjust to life in Odessa and assists in her search for her children in a city crowded with thousands of lost street urchins trying to survive.

Night Train to Odessa is a heartfelt, warm, and moving story of a mother’s love for her children. Author Mary L. Grow captures the horror and devastation of the city of Odessa after the Bolshevik Revolution. The narrative painfully conveyed the harrowing details of sickness, hunger, and immense suffering. I appreciated the work the author has put into the timeline of events that allows readers to understand the chronology of what had led to Elvira Maria and her children's situation. Perhaps what best sums up the depth of poverty and travails the people of Odessa were forced to endure is the novel’s climax, which is no fairytale ending and perhaps hints at a sequel to come. I hope so, as this story was one of my most enjoyable reads of the year and one I can highly recommend.