Under a Red Sky is a memoir that tells the little known story of Bucharest's Romanian Jews under Communism from the late 1950's to 1961. This intense first person narrative is full of immediate detail about the life of an extended family of seven adults and one child, who live in a few rooms in a house in Bucharest. Eva, the young narrator, recalls the details, sounds, sights, foods, and Romanian words that draw the reader close to her experiences. Though the narrator is ostensibly a child, the voice is the perceptive and expressive voice of an adult, accurately recalling her childhood. We follow Eva's story during the years she grew from seven to ten, when the family, after much difficulty, emigrated to Israel. Living a secular life, her family is nevertheless branded as Jewish, and subjected to governmental scrutiny, loss of their jobs, and many punitive indignities. Perseverance, courage, and complicated love and support relationships keep them sane until their final escape. Eva's connection with her beloved Grandpa Yosef, her Grandma Julia and her parents are memorable. The story moves swiftly, and the book is difficult to put down. One reads the last page with regret, wanting to know what happened next to people one has come to care for. When the book begins, Eva does not know that she is Jewish, though she hears her grandparents speak Yiddish frequently. The passage where grandpa Yosef gives Eva a mezuzah and introduces her to Hebrew letters and her previously unknown Jewish identity is strongly felt. The book includes black and white photographs of the family, some by Eva's father, Gyuri Zimmerman, which intensify its authenticity.
It is necessary to issue a caveat about designating this as a children's book. There is one chapter in which Eva's grandmother Julia graphically describes the atrocities committed against Jews in Bucharest during World War II, by the Iron Guard, the Legion of the Archangel Michael, known as the Legionnaires. The description is unbearably graphic, making the book inappropriate for children ages 10 and up, as the publisher states. This strongly suggests that the book's audience be mature young adults, 14 and older, as well as adults. Under A Red Sky is Haya Leah Molnar's first book. She is a fluent writer who has brought an unfamiliar chapter of Jewish history to life in Under a Red Sky. It is highly recommended for young adult and adult collections in Jewish libraries and public libraries, especially where there is interest in modern Jewish history and politics. Winner of a 2010 National Jewish Book Award. For grade 8 - adult.