c2010 Fiction; Grades 7-12; 180 p. Batchelder Award Winner – 2011
School Library Journal Starred: Blaise Fortune has gone by the name Koumail for most of his life with Gloria in the war-torn Republic of Georgia. Although he loves her like a mother, he enjoys hearing the story of how she rescued him from a train that had derailed and his French mother, a passenger, died, and he dreams of the day he will find his real family. When the Soviet Union collapses, Gloria and Koumail begin a long, perilous journey to France where she believes he can live the life he deserves, without the stress and strife of war. Readers follow them through refugee camps, alternating between times of more peaceful hardship and periods of danger and flight. When Gloria tells Koumail to hide in a truck, he makes it to France but she is left behind. As he grows from a child into an adolescent, Koumail begins to wonder more about his true identity, and the novel culminates nine years later with a heartbreaking realization. The story is written in beautiful, quiet prose and offers a touch of hope, along with tragedy. The characters and story are well formed, but young people unfamiliar with the circumstances of life behind the Iron Curtain and the collapse of the Soviet Union might be confused as much of the conflict and political situation isn't explained until near the end of the book. However, those who stay with it will be rewarded with an exceptional story.