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Formats
Paperback Details
  • 04/2024
  • 979-8-9899976-0-2 B0D1RWGYK2
  • 290 pages
  • $16.99
Ebook Details
  • 04/2024
  • 979-8-9899976-1-9
  • 290 pages
  • $7.99
Melissa Cole
Author
A Grain of Hope
Melissa Cole, author

Young Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)

In the heart of Ukraine’s fertile lands, thirteen-year-old Oksana Kovalenko leads a simple life with her family. The rolling fields and rustic charm of her small farming village are all that she knows. That is, until the Soviet Union takes power, and her world is turned upside down. As increasing authoritarianism and threats of land and food confiscation loom, Oksana fights to protect her loved ones from hunger and the loss of everything they hold dear. Her strength and resilience are tested as she is forced to navigate through the chaos, witnessing immense suffering as famine erupts due to the regime’s grain requisition. Threatened with being labeled an Enemy of the State, her family and friends endure persecution. She watches in horror as her village is reduced to starvation and despair. Forming unexpected alliances, she finds courage in friendship as she joins an underground movement that plans covert operations to feed starving villagers. Throughout this ordeal, Oksana grows from a hopeful schoolgirl into someone determined to protect her heritage at all costs. The premise revolves around themes of survival against tyranny, familial bonds in times of crisis, loss of innocence amidst political upheaval, and the resilience required to withstand historical tragedies such as famine and purges that characterized Stalin’s rule over Ukraine. A Grain of Hope reminds us of the human toll of war and oppression and pays tribute to the strength of the human spirit. Oksana’s story will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page.
Reviews
Cole sparkles in this meticulously researched young adult novel, her first foray into historical fiction, about a Soviet/Ukrainian clash at the hands of the feared Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. In spring 1931, 13-year-old Oksana Kovalenko is loving life in her Ukrainian village, working the family farm with her parents and older brother Peter and spending as much time as she can with her best friend, Anya. A chill runs through the village when Stalin’s army invades the tiny town, forcefully steal farms and systemically starve the villagers. As former friends betray each other to receive tiny portions of food, morale plummets—but so does the quiet heroism of resistance.

Cole evokes this fraught, frightening era with an eye for the telling detail, especially the “traditions and simple way of life” in Oksana’s village and how the Bolsheviks trample them. Historical context never slows the narrative, however, and Cole’s inventions, especially her characters’ choices and desires, make the past feel urgent for contemporary readers as they become engrossed by the injustices meted out by the cruel Soviet regime and its intense effort to erase Ukrainian culture. She also aptly demonstrates how war and persecution can drive difficult decisions, especially when Oksana’s friend Anya and her father Grigori join Stalin’s organizations in an effort to survive the conflict and not go hungry, even when Grigori plays a part in arresting Mikhail, Oksana’s father.

When Cole recounts the persecution and torture of Mikhail, and Dymitro, the town’s elderly baker, the unflinching details can be hard to stomach, and readers will feel the ache of hunger and despair right along with the characters. The story is all the more poignant given the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. While this expertly crafted tale may be geared for a younger audience, readers of any age should take Cole’s wise points to heart.

Takeaway: Heart-wrenching, meticulously researched tale about the Ukrainian Holodomor.

Comparable Titles: Erin Litteken's The Memory Keeper of Kyiv, Katherine Marsh's The Lost Year.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

Dr. J. Otto Pohl

A Grain of Hope presents a solid fictionalized account of one family's life within a carefully researched historical setting. This dual nature allows it to appeal to young readers as an adventure book, with the unusual feature of having a female main character, and to educate them about the history of the Holodomor in Ukraine during the early 1930s.” Dr. J. Otto Pohl, historian and author of The Years of Great Silence

Reedsy

"Superb writing and expert pacing propel this compelling historical fiction along like jet fuel. You don't want to miss this one! Riveting!"

Formats
Paperback Details
  • 04/2024
  • 979-8-9899976-0-2 B0D1RWGYK2
  • 290 pages
  • $16.99
Ebook Details
  • 04/2024
  • 979-8-9899976-1-9
  • 290 pages
  • $7.99
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