In the 1930s, Stalin’s activists marched through the Soviet Union, espousing the greatness of collective farming. It was the first step in creating a man-made famine that, in Ukraine, stole almost 4 million lives. Inspired by the history the world forgot, and the Russian government denies, Erin Litteken reimagines their story.
In 1929, Katya is 16 years old, surrounded by family and in love with the boy next door. When Stalin’s activists arrive in her village, it’s just a few, a little pressure to join the collective. But soon neighbors disappear, those who speak out are never seen again and every new day is uncertain.
Resistance has a price, and as desperate hunger grips the countryside, survival seems more a dream than a possibility. But, even in the darkest times, love beckons.
Seventy years later, a young widow discovers her grandmother’s journal, one that will reveal the long-buried secrets of her family’s haunted past.
This is a story of the resilience of the human spirit, the love that sees us through our darkest hours and the true horror of what happened during the Holodomor.
May we never forget, lest history repeat itself.
"A stunning portrait of Ukraine and its people, of strength, of endurance, of the fight for survival during the forced famine, the Holodomor, but also a tender story of Katya, a grandmother whose hidden history holds the power to guide her granddaughter through the darkness of loss and grief, toward life and a limitless future. A remarkable read not to be missed."
-Lisa Wingate, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of Before We Were Yours
“Breathtaking. Devastating. Erin Litteken's The Memory Keeper of Kyiv chronicles a defining but forgotten moment of Ukrainian history through the shared joys and griefs, lives and deaths of one indomitable family. This would be an important book at any time but is an absolutely vital one now.”
-Amanda McCrina, author of Traitor & The Silent Unseen
"The Memory Keeper of Kyiv is a truly enlightening read - I learned so much about the history of Ukraine, as well as the many time-honored traditions that are still in use today. Katya's heartbreaking story - paralleled with Cassie and Anna in the present day - kept me turning the pages. I recommend this to anyone looking for a personal way to connect with Ukraine's history, and how it ties into current tragic events."
–M.B. Henry, author of All the Lights Above Us
"Erin Litteken pens a powerfully moving debut in The Memory Keeper of Kyiv. Two timelines unfold at breakneck pace: sixteen year old Katya witnesses the arrival of Soviet activists to her tiny Ukrainian village and struggles to hold her family together through Stalin's systematic starvation of her country--seventy years later, a young widow struggles to understand why her tough-as-nails grandmother is haunted by ghosts and hoarding food as if it will be taken away at any moment. Ukraine's tragic history painfully echoes its current crisis, and on every page the Ukrainian spirit shines out, unbowed, unbent, and unbroken. This is a compelling, timely read."
-Kate Quinn, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Rose Code & The Diamond Eye
“I was utterly gripped by this beautiful novel from the very first page! Litteken has weaved a compelling and intimate story of love and survival. It is harrowing, haunting and chilling in its portrayal of history, illuminating the horrors of the Holodomor in a way which brings us to the heart of the people and families who suffered. And yet, at the same time, it is sensitive, beautiful and inspiring. Everybody should read this story especially now. The Memory Keeper of Kyiv is written by an author who understands the depths of both loss and love. I cannot recommend it highly enough.”
–Christy Lefteri, author of
The Beekeeper of Aleppo
"The Memory Keeper of Kyiv is a meticulously researched novel brilliantly depicting the horrific events of Stalin’s systematic destruction of a country...
Reading this story felt all the more poignant in the current climate knowing that the proud people of Ukraine are once again suffering appalling atrocities as they fight to survive at the hands of others determined to ruin them.
A captivating, heartfelt debut which was at times achingly painful to read."
–Deborah Carr, USA Today bestselling author of An Island at War
“Emotionally riveting and honest, The Memory Keeper of Kyiv is both timely and timeless—a brave and important book that simultaneously shines an unflinching light on historical atrocities while it celebrates the resilience of the human spirit. Litteken seamlessly intertwines the past with the present as she follows a Ukrainian family’s heart-wrenching journey through genocidal famine and grievous loss while elevating their bravery, strength, and selfless love. You won’t soon forget this stunning debut.”
author of Parting the Veil
“Erin Litteken’s passion for Ukrainian culture and history is evident through this sensitive, impactful tribute to a little-known, deeply important time. Heart wrenching and heart warming, The Memory Keeper of Kyiv is a story of unwavering courage and unyielding hope.”
--Gabriella Saab, author of
The Last Checkmate
--Gabriella Saab, author of
The Last Checkmate
"This beautifully written snapshot of Ukraine’s history is both timely and heart-rending, sensitively bringing to life the culture of a nation devastated by an enemy invader. How shocking it is that it’s a history that’s being repeated today. And how important a reminder that where there’s life, there’s hope."
–Fiona Valpy, author of
The Dressmaker's Gift
The seeds of this story took root in my mind even before Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, and now I sit drafting this letter while the news of Russia’s brutal attack on Ukraine–its cities, its civilians, its future–plays on the television in the background. I never imagined the release of my novel on a past assault of the Ukrainian people would coincide with such a parallel tragedy
Ukrainians today are fighting for their country with a strength and tenacity that has captivated the world, but it is impossible to deny that history is repeating itself. It’s horrifying, and we must do better.
As the granddaughter of a Ukrainian refugee from WW2, the poignancy of this war devastates me. While we can’t change history, we can all learn from it and do something to help the Ukrainian people today. I’m so pleased that my publisher, Boldwood Books, will be donating a portion of each sale to DEC’s Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.
My heart goes out to the brave Ukrainians defending their country, their culture, and their lives, both then and now.