“I had just finished my MFA,” Christina wrote me recently. “I didn’t have a job. I was twenty-six years old, between boyfriends, and had no burning ideas for a novel. I was too old to live in my parents’ house, or so it seemed to me at the time. When I flash back, I realize I was quite conflicted about being a writer, despite what my heart had always told me. Perhaps because I was born in the JFK era, joining the Peace Corps seemed a perfect opportunity suddenly, no longer just a pipe dream. Just in making the decision to join, I felt a sense of urgency that was new to me.”
Christina would go to Eastern Europe as a PCV, to Szeged, Hungary, a city close to the Romaian border. She writes that her experience over two years and subsequent years working in the region was an amazing education. It was the end of the Iron Curtain and she was there, watching it happen. She wrote me also, “I couldn’t have written this novel if it weren’t for my Peace Corps experience and I am always grateful.”
The novel is entitled, Smuggled. It is, as the press release states, a novel that “spans four decades in a woman’s quest to regain her identity from the conflicts that defined her youth.”
The first ideas for this novel, explains Christina, was born “of my love of heroes. I met so many unsung heroes in Romania and Hungary, and I wanted to give voice to just one. The holocaust, communism, Ceausescu’s oppression and, at last, the historic change that could set my character free.”
The novel opens in the final winter of the Second World War, five-year-old Eva Farkas is hidden by her mother in a flour sack and smuggled across the Hungarian border to Romania. Her aunt and uncle rename her Anca and forbid her to speak Hungarian ever again. “Eva is dead,” she is told.
As years pass, an unquenchable spirit emerges, full of passion and imagination even as a uniquely twisted brand of Communist oppression threatens to derail Anca at ever turn. Though pushed to the breaking point, when the pillars of a Communism finally crumble, a grown-up Anca returns to Hungary, a country changing as fast as the price of bread, to find a home and reclaim the name her mother gave her.
This second novel of Christina Shea will be published this July as a trade paperback by Black Cat. Her first novel, Moira’s Crossing, was a Barnes & Noble Discover selection.
Christina lives in Boston and she will be reading at Lesley University in Cambridge on Monday, June 27, at 6:45. She will be at the McKenna Students Center, Marran Theater. Go and say hello, tell her you were a PCV, and buy her book. Christina is a RPCV writer. The woman can write and we are lucky to have her as one of our own.