“Rachel and Aleks”, is a truly touching story that revolves around the life of Rachel Jonish. Rachel is a beautiful, strong-willed young lady living in the small village of Zarki. During one of her nightly visits to her friend Helana’s salon, she meets a young man named Jakob. Forming an instant connection, Jakob ask Rachel to go with him to Palestine. Denying him, Rachel still leads him on by sending and receiving letters from him. Finally Jakob ask her to marry him to which Rachel replies no and crushes him and her best fried Helana in the process. Rachel then decides to finish her education and her father enlist the help of a private tutor named Pavel. Pavel happens to be a handsome and highly educated man and Rachel soon finds herself in the beginning of a relationship. Soon to her displeasure her mother puts a stop to her relationship with Pavel on the grounds of him being Catholic. From there Rachel moves to the town of Czestochowa, where she starts working for her father in the leather business. Meeting the legendary political writer, Aleks Mischel, the man than all Poland is talking about the soon marry. They then move to Warsaw and add another member to their small family, a daughter named Rilka. Life is running smooth for this small family until two events changer the course of their lives, first Hitler rises to power, and second Rachel accepts an invitation to London from her aunt and uncle, While in London she meets the rich shrewd business man, Roman and begins having an affaire. Leaving London just in the nick of time she arrives home before the war begins. They flee to Poland leaving behind her sister Sophie.
They then start the long hard journey to freedom, first to Russia, then Japan, and finally to the safety of America. Although now they are gripped with the realization that thing were never going to the same in America as it once was in Poland, no longer did they hold the wealth, power, or positions they once held. Finding herself struggling with what has become her life and consumed by the guilt of leaving her sister behind not knowing if she was alive or dead, Rachel begins her affair once again with Roman who is now in the States. Will Rachel every find out if Sophie is among the living and when given the chance will Rachel leave her husband and run off with another man?
“Rachel and Aleks”, is truly a novel of perseverance. When it seems that her world is crashing down around her, Rachel always finds a way to pick up the pieces and go on. Sylvia Smollar has captured the struggles of family life in a period of darkness. Taking on the quest for freedom Smollar had delivered a touching story of survival. Defiantly a book that all should read.