Thursday, July 18, 2013

Book Review: Gracianna by Trini Amador


The gripping story of Gracianna--a French-Basque girl forced to make impossible decisions after being recruited into the French Resistance in Nazi-occupied Paris.

Gracianna is inspired by true events in the life of Trini Amador's great-grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga. As an adult, Amador was haunted by the vivid memory of finding a loaded German Luger tucked away in a nightstand while wandering his great-grandmother's home in Southern California. He was only four years old at the time, but the memory remained and he knew he had to explore the story behind the gun.

Decades later, Amador would delve into the remarkable odyssey of his Gracianna's past, a road that led him to an incredible surprise. In Gracianna, Amador weaves fact and fiction to tell his great-grandmother's story.

Gracianna bravely sets off to Paris in the early 1940s--on her way to America, she hopes--but is soon swept into the escalation of the war and the Nazi occupation of Paris. After chilling life-and-death struggles, she discovers that her missing sister has surfaced as a laborer in Auschwitz. When she finds an opportunity to fight back against the Nazis to try to free her sister, she takes it--even if it means using lethal force.

As Amador tells the imagined story of how his great-grandmother risked it all, he delivers richly drawn characters and a heart-wrenching page-turner that readers won't soon forget.

Greenleaf Book Group Press | July 23, 2013 | 296 pages

My Review

4 Stars

Trini Amador's debut novel, Gracianna, is a fictionalized account of the life of his great-grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga.   The writing of the book was inspired by Amador's quest to discover the story behind the German Luger (gun) he found at Gracianna's home when he was child.   The novel opens with a young Gracianna growing up in Basque country during the 1930s.  Although she loves her home, Gracianna dreams of moving to the United States.  In an effort to earn enough money for her passage, Gracianna moves to Paris to work.  While she quickly finds a job and settles into her Parisian life, Europe has once again become embroiled in war, and it isn't long after Gracianna arrives that Paris becomes occupied by German forces.  Although she arrives in Paris alone, Gracianna is soon joined by her childhood friend and romantic interest, Juan, and then by her younger sister, Constance.   While Gracianna still hopes to move to the United States, her plans are put on hold when Constance is taken prisoner and sent to Auschwitz.   Faced with the possibility of losing her sister forever, Gracianna vows to do whatever is necessary to secure Constance's release.

There are many elements of Gracianna that make it an absorbing read, not the least of which is Gracianna herself.   Amador depicts his great-grandmother as a strong, determined woman, one who is willing to fight for what she believes in, even if it puts her own life in jeopardy in the process.  As such, Gracianna is a character who many readers will be unable to forget.   Another aspect of this novel that I liked was the incorporation of the Basque culture and way of life.   While Basque country itself is only featured in the early part of the novel, Gracianna never once forgets who she is and where she comes from, a fact that is reflected throughout the story.   Although Gracianna serves as the focal point of the book, her sister Constance's imprisonment in Auschwitz also features prominently and I thought Amador did a good job of portraying Constance's struggle to stay alive.  Lastly, I enjoyed how Juan and Gracianna's relationship developed over the course of the novel, and how Juan was a constant source of unwavering support to Gracianna even if it meant he had to put his own dreams on hold.  

Although I really enjoyed Gracianna, I did struggle a bit with my rating.  Initially I had given the book a slightly lower rating than the four stars I finally settled on, mainly due to the fact that I had a few minor issues with some of the book's mechanics.  Upon reflection, however, I came to realize that these minor issues had little if any impact on my appreciation for the story itself, which took no time for me to become completely captivated by.  

Gracianna is recommended to historical fiction enthusiasts who enjoy novels set during World War II, as well as to readers who like novels featuring strong female heroines.

Note: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Gracianna is currently on tour with Historical Fiction Book Tours.  Click here to check out the tour schedule. 

About the Author 

Trini Amador vividly remembers the day he found a loaded German Luger tucked away in a nightstand while wandering through his great-grandmother’s home in Southern California. He was only four years old at the time, but the memory remained and he knew he had to explore the story behind the gun. This experience sparked a journey towards Gracianna, Amador’s debut novel, inspired by true events and weaving reality with imagination. It's a tale drawing from real-life family experiences.

Mr. Amador is a traveled global marketing "insighter.” He is a sought-after guru teaching multinational brand marketers to understand how customer and consumer segments behave based on their needs, values, motivations, feeling and values. He has trained over five thousand brand marketers on how to grow brands in over 20 countries in the last 15 years. His counseling has been valued at global brands including General Electric, Microsoft, AT&T, Yahoo!, Sun Microsystems, Google, Jack Daniel’s, The J.M. Smucker Co., DuPont, Mattel, and Rodale, Inc..

Amador is also a founding partner with his wife and children of Gracianna Winery, an award-winning winery located in Healdsburg, California. The winery also pays tribute to the Amador Family’s maternal grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga. Her message of being thankful lives on through them. The Gracianna winery strives to keep Gracianna’s gratitude alive through their wine. Learn more at:, like Gracianna Winery on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @GraciannaWinery.

Amador resides in Sonoma County with his family.

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