Reviewed by Hilary Hawkes for Readers' Favorite
Franzisca’s Box by Sandra Perez Gluschankoff is a modern day story that looks back in time to World War II Romania, and the horrors and consequences of Nazi criminals. The story unfolds from Sofia’s and the narrator’s or other characters’ points of view and also alternates between the past and present. Sofia’s grandmother (Claudia), her abuela, passes away and Sofia is set on a path of extraordinary and frightening discovery as she slowly uncovers the truth about Claudia. The contents of a box give clues to indicate that the stories her grandmother used to tell her when she was a child hide some horrifying and astonishing real life events. Somewhat alienated from her mother, Sofia is initially left to piece the puzzle together with the help of a young man, Daniel, who was concerned to track her down and who needs answers as much as Sofia does.
Sandra Perez Gluschankoff's story is brilliantly written, heart breaking yet fascinating, and had me hooked from the very start. All the various parts of the plot and the characters are cleverly interwoven into the story, and I love the way it all unfolds slowly and gradually, never giving anything away. I felt as though I was accompanying Sofia on her journey of discovery and putting the clues and pieces together with her. Her mission at first seems almost impossible with so many extraordinarily puzzling clues – the tales of Franzisca, the Norah Wellington cloth doll etc. But in time everything connects and weaves together into one story that will suddenly make complete sense. And there are some real “ah-ha” moments along the way. Gluschankoff's characters are strong, well-defined, and believable – inserted into some real life or historical events. Sofia herself has a commendable courageousness that sees her persevering, determined to discover and understand, regardless of the horrors and shocks she uncovers.
The author’s portrayal of some of the horrific traumas and acts of abuse or evil that befell many Jews at that time is honest and vivid, and leaves the reader in no doubt that this had consequences and effects on future generations. This is a story about survival, compromise, love, revenge, and repercussions. Importantly, it is also about forgiveness and the need to lay the past to rest in order to move forward in peace. Recommended.