Rachel is a 14 year-old Jew living in 1903 Kishinev, Russia. Curious and determined, she wants more from life than the traditional role of wife and mother. When she witnesses the murder of a Russian boy, she realizes she can't go to the police for they don't trust Jews. The newspaper editor blames Jews for the murder, without proof, and writes anti-Jewish headlines which ignite anger amongst the Russian community. Tensions mount and explode in a three-day massacre that leaves Rachel mourning the person she loves most. She finds herself turning unexpectedly to Sergei, a Russian struggling with what his people have done. With everything against them, Rachel and Sergei cling to their growing bond, one of the few signs of goodness and hope in a time of chaos and violence.
Rachel's Secret (Rachel Trilogy #1)
Booklist: April 15, 2012, by Anne O'Malley
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
When 14 year-old Rachel's father prods her about her withdrawn behavior, she implores him, "If you had a secret but knew it could cause trouble if you told, what would you do?" Living under Russian rule in Kishinev in 1903, Rachel was one of the last people to see her Christian friend Mikhail alive when she witnessed his murder at the hands of disgruntled relatives who stood to lose out on an inheritance. His death is blamed on Jews, however, and a vicious pogrom is unleashed on the city. Rachel's anguish about knowing what happened stems from a justified fear of not being believed if she comes forward, thus evoking more turmoil. She also harbors guilt that her somewhat risky friendship with a non-Jewish boy somehow triggered the calamity. Basing the story on historical record, Sanders weaves a tale of catastrophe stemming from unbridled hatred, spreading of untruths, and lack of commitment to public safety on the part of officials. And while Rachel does act courageously and courtroom justice is meted out, virulent anti-Semitism still rules the day. In an artful way throughout this absorbing, chilling tale, characters wonder what can stop the tragedy of hatred from overcoming community, a question that will prompt readers to wonder the same.