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Winner of the Great Lakes College Association for Fiction (2017)
Tadek Gradinski grows up witnessing the multiple invasions and crimes of World War II sweep over his village. After the war, at fourteen, he begins to run messages and guns for the anti-Stalin diehards still hiding in the woods. At seventeen hes leading a double life, falling in love with a village girl, and dreaming about marriage and a job, while spying on NKVD agents at night. But someone betrays the partisans: their camp is destroyed; Tadek is arrested, tortured, and swept away into the Gulag with a twenty-five year sentence.
Historys Child tells the coming-of-age story of a Polish boy born in a village in eastern Poland in 1931, whose childhood is torn apart, first by the Soviet invasion from the east, then by the German invasion from the west, and ultimately by repressive grip of Stalin that sends him to the gulag and subsumes his homeland into the Soviet republic of Belarus. The novel engages bravely with an unfashionable place, a chunk of land that is sometimes Belarus, sometimes Poland. History makes cruel visits, and there is sometimes brutal local treatment of outsiders and minorities. And yet the book is told in terms of individual fates, betrayals and survivals. This work has many of the characteristics of the big novel: a historical backdrop, a world war, resistance, hunger. The narrative is riveting, the writing lucid, and the characters compelling. Boyer reveals what it means to remain a moral human being in the face of totalitarian power and brutality. This is a novel that reminds us of the power of fiction to teach us empathy and to help us understand how precarious freedom truly is. It is a masterful novel, one that is necessary for our times. Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA) 2017 fiction winner Judges note