The Girl with 35 Names

Young Adult - Coming of Age
262 Pages
Reviewed on 04/08/2020
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

D.J. Colbert was born and raised in the Boston area of Massachusetts. After college she moved with her husband Jeff to Southern California where she has enjoyed living for over 30 years. Her home is filled with the products of her creativity, from watercolors to miniature houses and sculpture. She loves yoga and pilates, dance and movement and music of all types, especially Spanish guitar. She is an avid reader and is the author of many short stories, and has even illustrated a few. An active participant in her community, she has been a founding member of two women's charitable giving circles that support health and the arts for children in the L.A. area. DJ has two grown children and a sweet granddaughter named Brooke. She is currently finishing the screenplay for The Girl witth35 Names, which is her first novel.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Edith Wairimu for Readers' Favorite

A heart-warming, coming-of-age story, The Girl with 35 Names by DJ Colbert follows Molly, a girl with a kind heart and special gifts. Molly is born in Zhitomir, a small village in Russia, in the cold winter of 1892. Surrounded by relatives and friends, Molly is given thirty-five names of women whose legacies she will carry forward. One day as she works with her parents, Molly discovers her great-grandmother’s special spectacles. As she grows up, Molly becomes curious about what each name given to her means. As she runs errands for her mother, she soon discovers the amazing stories of the women whose names she carries. Life continues beautifully until war comes to Zhitomir. At this point, Molly must escape Russia for America, with her new husband whom she barely knows. But her kindness and courage continue even in the new land.

The Girl with 35 Names by DJ Colbert instills kindness through its main character, Molly, who uses her gifts to help other people. In America, her role in the community is unforgettable as she changes the lives of those around her. Her curiosity to understand the meaning of each name given to her is also encouraging. Molly begins to understand what each name means and learns from the roles of these other women, which serves as a source of strength for Molly in her journey. The story is set in a beautiful, picturesque village as it begins. As the Red Army moves into the village and rumors of another war escalate, the atmosphere changes. Still, the frightening experiences bring out Molly’s courage as she and her husband face terrifying challenges along the way. The work’s language and tone are also accessible to young readers. The Girl with 35 Names is an absorbing story based on true events and whose main character is inspiring.

Susan Sewell

Through a pair of old spectacles, a young girl discovers the magic in the world around her in the heartwarming young adult novel, The Girl With 35 Names by DJ Colbert. When she was nine, Molly found an old pair of spectacles lying on the ground. Each time Molly wore them, they mysteriously changed the way she saw the world. Strangely, the glasses only worked for her and no one else. However, being different wasn't new to Molly. Her life was exceptional from its beginning. After many years of facing the possibility of never having children, Molly's parents were excited to conceive. At her birth, Molly's elated family assembled at her cradle and each blessed her with the name of a beloved family member and their favorable character traits and attributes. Instead of being daunted by the extraordinary power of the glasses and unusual distinction of her name, Molly embraced the uniqueness of her legacy. Her enlightened perception of nature and those around her, combined with her heritage, gave Molly the courage and strength to face the conflict and danger in her future.

The childhood awareness of compassion, courage, and fortitude sustain a young woman when she and her husband must flee their country in the uplifting young adult novel, The Girl With 35 Names by DJ Colbert. It is an inspiring tale with a bewitching storyline, engaging characters, and beautiful backdrops. The story moves smoothly between the principal characters' different points of view and three different stages in Molly's life. The settings are enchanting and are so well described, you feel as if you are there. I love the addition of herbalism, the method in which herbs were used in that era, and how the recipes and knowledge were handed down to each generation. Although this is a great coming of age novel, it is a touching tale with a beguiling story that is bound to charm everyone who reads it.

K.C. Finn

The Girl with 35 Names is a work of fiction on the coming of age theme and was written by author D. J. Colbert. Penned for young adults, the intention of the volume is to inspire readers to explore their own heritage and identity, and to focus on giving to the world rather than taking from it. These messages and more are conveyed through protagonist Molly, based on a real-life figure from the author’s family life. Molly travels from Russia to New England throughout the course of some incredible life experiences and hardships, but her fortitude and attitude see her through these many changes and teach us lessons along the way.

Author D. J. Colbert has penned the kind of book that teachers are sure to adore, for all the important content, themes, history and messages that they can share with young people through the reading experience. The intended YA audience will certainly appreciate the character development of Molly herself, who undergoes a lot of hardship and is sure to gain great empathy, but also admiration for her strength. I loved the message about the solidarity and individuality of women, an apt message indeed for these modern times, and the author’s treatment of these lessons is smoothly woven into the narrative so as not to distract from the intriguing plot of the story itself. Overall, The Girl with 35 Names delivers a masterclass in deep character development as well as valuable teaching tools and moral, positive messages for its audiences.

Teresa Syms

The Girl with 35 Names is a heart-warming story about a young Russian girl named Molly. The story is based on the life of the grandmother of the author, DJ Colbert. On the bitterly cold Russian night Molly was born, her mother’s extended family members come to give the baby not only their blessings but also a name of a very important female family member from their lives. This in fact is how Molly ended up with the incredible gifts of 35 names. As Molly grew, she began to learn that each female member of her family had a special gift. The girl wondered what her special gift was. While working in the garden, Molly discovers a pair of glasses in the dirt. They apparently were lost by her grandmother years before. Magic happens when Molly places the glasses on her nose. She sees color. Each person she looks at has different colors wrapped around them. Some have beautiful colors, those with beauty and happiness within themselves, and others have colors that frighten Molly. After meeting her husband, Sam, Molly makes an almost fatal mistake. She and Sam are forced to flee Russian for America. They land in the frozen New England town of Peabody. Sam is under pressure from work. Molly is losing faith and feels alone until she remembers to use her glasses. It is at this point where life turns around and Molly’s unique gift is finally discovered.

The Girl with 35 Names by DJ Colbert is a lovely tale following the young Russian girl, Molly. This book is definitely a page-turner and the reader will soon find themselves lost in Molly’s story. Colbert’s characters come to life and draw the reader into the protagonist’s life. This is a well-written book and I personally found myself reading through the pages, unable to wait to find out what happens next. Colbert’s gift of writing, description of main characters and story development are excellent. This is a beautiful story of hope, faith, and belief. Each time Molly puts the glasses on, the reader is clearly able to visualize the aura she sees swirling around people. Sam and Molly are forced to live in a black and grey town because the owner of the town, Mr. Pimms, is an angry, miserable man who forces his workers to live in his misery. Molly needs color in her world and a mysterious benefactor leaves big bags of yarn at her door. Molly happily crochets hats, scarves, gloves, and socks for the people of the town. Molly and her friends, through their kindness, break through the black and grey barrier of Mr. Pimm’s world by reminding him of happier times and the beauty that color brings into our lives. I highly recommend The Girl with 35 Names. You too will enjoy the happiness that can be found in life.

Lisa McCombs

When Molly was born on a cold Russian night in 1892, her parents proudly named her Malkah, fully aware of the probable wrath of the many family members with other suggestions at hand. By the time relatives and friends had completed their list of preferred names, tiny Molly was the owner of a lengthy nomenclature. When Molly is wed to Sam, the newlyweds escape the dangers of political strife between the Red and Blue Armies and flee to America where hard times eventually evolve into a prosperous future for Molly, Sam, and their child. As Molly transforms through the phases of life, she depends upon her great-grandmother’s golden eyeglasses to lead the way. In The Girl With 35 Names by DJ Colbert, only Molly sees the colors though the glasses to show her the sincerity of people around her.

The Girl With 35 Names by DJ Colbert is a delightful tale of family values, first love, and the allure of folklore magic. Childhood dreams, coming of age emotions and the diversity of cultures provide a vivid portrait of post-war realities. DJ Colbert enhances this moving story with realistic dialogue and believable settings. The reader will be transported into a time of nostalgic sentiments and the harshness of early America. Colbert shows us the power of kindness through two lonely and desperate Russian immigrants. Definitely a feel-good story.

Asher Syed

The Girl with 35 Names by DJ Colbert is a fictionalized biography of the author's grandmother that weaves through the story of her life and times with an underlying thread that ties in mysticism and the clairvoyance of the protagonist. On the day of Molly's birth in late 19th century Russia, parents Moriah and Ari select a name for their daughter. They settle on Malkah, shortened to Molly, until members of the village pour in with suggestions of their own. Soon, Molly has a total of 35 names, each belonging to a woman with whom she will soon discover stories of strength, resilience, and love. When she finds a seemingly innocuous pair of old glasses, Molly is empowered with the ability to move through space and time on a journey of self-discovery that shapes the decisions made in her own life as the decades of this coming of age novel blossom into life.

The Girl with 35 Names is a beautiful story that does an excellent job blending historical and fantasy fiction based on a true story. I loved how Molly is able to learn about the women she is named for and how she is able to see first hand who they are and how they relate to her. The turbulence of Molly's lifetime adds to the plot as she is forced to forge a life for herself amongst a backdrop of political and social upheaval in her country of birth. DJ Colbert accomplishes Molly's ambitious story with a strong, engrossing narrative and a perfectly paced series of events that can only be achieved by the hand of a talented, restrained writer. Very highly recommended.

Samantha Gregory

The Girl With 35 Names by DJ Colbert is the story of a young girl called Molly who, when she was born one night in a small Russian village, was christened with thirty-five names, thanks to her interfering extended family. As she grows up, Molly wants to know more about the names and why they were chosen for her. She starts a journey filled with magic as she grows up, until the army destroys her village, forcing her to flee across the world to America. Throughout these experiences, which are devastating and life-changing, Molly remains strong and hopeful. Her whole world is turned upside down as they are forced to leave behind everything they know. Molly relies on the spectacles that she finds in the garden to help her escape into a more magical environment.

DJ Colbert has written a charming tale with an interesting and delightful protagonist. The Girl With 35 Names was well written and the story unfolded well. The dialogue was believable, as were the characters' interactions. I enjoyed reading it and I think it would really appeal to teen girls and older ones too. It is something I would have read myself as a teenager. I think it will do well in the young adult category and it was refreshing to read something a little different from what is currently on the market, where it is all vampires and werewolves. The title does capture the imagination too and it is what attracted me to the book originally. I would definitely recommend this book.

Sefina Hawke

The Girl with 35 Names by DJ Colbert is a young adult coming of age book based on the true story of the author’s grandmother. This book would appeal most to a diverse audience of young women and mothers. The book begins in Russia in the year 1892 when a special baby girl was born and blessed by each of her 35 family members with a different name of a much-loved female ancestor. This blessed young girl, Molly, has her life forever changed when she finds a pair of spectacles that offer Molly a more magical view of the world around her. These spectacles proved especially helpful to Molly on her wedding day when they allowed her to be reassured by her female ancestors on her marriage. Unfortunately, Molly’s life takes another turn when war comes and she and her husband are forced to leave their home for the United States of America. Will Molly’s spectacles help her to keep seeing the magic that exists around her or will she allow herself to be drowned in her own despair?

The Girl with 35 Names by DJ Colbert was a very well written book that seamlessly blended fact and fiction into one beautiful story. I really loved that the story was based on the life of the author’s grandmother, yet made magical with the addition of the spectacles. I really felt for Molly when she was forced to leave her home and everything she knew behind. I felt like I was able to really connect with Molly on an emotional level, as I too have had to move in the past. I have to say that I ended up truly falling in love with this story as it was intriguing, magical, and beautiful! I hope the author decides to continue to write as she clearly has quite the gift for writing.

Grant Leishman

The Girl With 35 Names by DJ Colbert is a semi-biographical tale of a young girl born in rural Russia at the end of the nineteenth century. Molly’s birth is attended by many of the villagers who are all excited to give Molly a name that means something special to them; a mother, a favorite aunt, or a grandmother, perhaps. As a result, she is named and christened with 35 names. As Molly grows into maturity she is intrigued and amazed by the women who had lent her those 35 names and she sets out on a journey of discovery to uncover the women she was named after, what made them special and what their name may have meant for her. Aided by a special discovery she made one morning whilst helping her parents in the fields, she begins to discover that she has special gifts and insight that can only have come from the many special women she was named after. As Russia descends into anarchy and hunted by the feared Red Army, Molly must make the difficult decision to relocate far across the world, in New England, America. All the time, through all the trouble and travails she faces, she never loses her love of people, her belief in happiness and joy and the desire to spread that to all the people she meets.

I picked this book up, intrigued by the title, but once I began to read The Girl With 35 Names, I was entranced and captivated by the essence of this young woman and by author DJ Colbert’s insightful view of her own grandmother. In a world beset by trouble, it behooves us all to occasionally read something uplifting, inspiring and simply joyful. This book absolutely fulfills those requirements. The author’s clear understanding, empathy, and connection to this remarkable character shine through in every word, sentence, and nuance of the tale. The writing is poetically descriptive at times and the story flows seamlessly from one crisis point to the next. The characters were possibly “too perfect” in some ways but that just served to reinforce the universal message of peace, joy, hope, and love that flowed from every word of this narrative. What Molly discovered and wanted to impart to us all is that the journey is important, not the problems that beset you along the way. Molly’s greatest contribution to her family was perseverance and, most of all, love. These characters reminded us in no uncertain terms that there is sunshine to be found in even the direst of circumstances and that we have to give love and joy to receive it back and when we do, we receive it back in spades. Aligning with my own views of the Universe, I found this story immensely uplifting and just a fantastic read. I can highly recommend it.

Vincent Dublado

The Girl With 35 Names is an original tale that celebrates the power of the human spirit and how it can triumph over insurmountable adversities. Author D.J. Colbert connects the past and the present in telling the unforgettable story of a girl named Molly, whose relatives blessed her with the name of each beloved female ancestor at her birth as a gesture of remembrance and preservation of family values. Though she got married at the tender age of seventeen, she was filled with high hopes and looked forward to a bright future. But Molly was building a life with her husband in a time when war was looming. It didn’t take long before the Red Army brought the war into her small village, and Molly and her husband had to make a quick departure to escape the barbarism of conflict, leaving behind everything they held dear. Life outside her beloved village is an experience of drama, love, and enlightenment. Based on the story of the author’s grandmother, it will reconnect us to the importance of family values and appreciating the things that truly matter.

Readers need stories that will keep them on the edge of their seats. But they also need a story like The Girl With 35 Names that reflects the pain of growing up in a harsh world without sacrificing your morals and forgetting who you are. Time might judge this work as a monumental piece, and I’m deeply glad to have read it. You can also hope to pass it on to your children, friends, and family. D.J. Colbert’s book is unremittingly profound and inspiring. It knows exactly what it is telling as it plumbs the significance of the past in shaping the present. Judged purely on narrative terms, The Girl With 35 Names is luminous, a reading experience that not only entertains but also nurtures recollection.