Only By Blood is a novel of the search for roots, mother-daughter love, and family reconciliation. A Polish woman receives puzzling news from her mother just before she dies. The novel weaves together the story of Mania a devout, Polish Christian doctor and her mother Krystyna. The two are exceptionally close, as Mania has never known her father. However, in spite of their closeness, Krystyna has always refused to tell Mania about their family or the time they spent together when Mania was small during the war. Their story is mainly told in the present as Mania deals with her mother’s aging, her death, and her final words, “Find them … make it right.” She wants to fulfill her mother’s last wishes, but has little idea of where to start. Never does she suspect that her search will take her across Poland, back in time and over the ocean.
Spanning over sixty years, this story tells about the lengths to which mothers will go in order to save their daughters and the secrets they will keep to protect them from pain. Set in the broader context of the fraught relationship of Poles and Jews during and after the Second World War, it depicts the circumstances that made some ordinary people behave heroically while others betrayed their friends and neighbours.
“Moving back and forth deftly over a sixty-year period, Only By Blood compellingly recreates the experience of two Polish families first trying to survive the Second World War and then suffering the unforeseen consequences of that survival. Krakauer’s novel is at once a lyrical testament to the power of love and an exciting page-turner, as full of twists and turns as any true-crime novel.”
—Susan Glickman, poet and author of The Violin Lover and The Tale Teller
“Only By Blood is another remarkable testament to a lost generation. In this vivid, moving and remarkable novel, Renate Krakauer captures what it means for families to be displaced, or to be torn asunder, the parts never to meet again, to lose all dignity, self-respect and self-regard and indeed, in many cases, to lose our most precious possession: life itself. Krakauer’s novel joins the many on this heavy but hopeful shelf of stories—hopeful because, without them, history is bound to repeat itself.”
— Joe Kertes, author of Gratitude and The Afterlife of Stars
“Set partly in Poland and partly in Canada, Only By Blood is a Holocaust story of survival and secrets, broken families, broken hearts. It’s a familiar tale made new by the particular dramas of Krakauer’s characters. This is a novel to be savoured for its seriousness and depth of feeling.”
—Cynthia Holz, author of Benevolence
“Only By Blood begins during the Holocaust in Poland, and, at first, it feels like a familiar story we have read about before, but soon the novel moves into a compelling mystery which then broadens into questions of identity and moral complexity. What does it mean to love and can love be unjustified, bordering on the criminal? Only by Blood illuminates aspects of the fallout from WW2 that have remained insufficiently explored in literature and depicts them in a powerful narrative.”
—Antanas Sileika, author of Underground and Woman in Bronze
“In Renata Krakauer’s Only By Blood, trauma embeds itself across generations in the fabric of lives, whether family members are cognizant of the role the past plays or whether they can only intuit its effect. Krakauer unfolds her narrative on Polish and Canadian soil during World War II and decades afterwards, fueled by the desire of the first generation to know and by the reticence of the survivors, both Polish Catholic and Jewish, to tell. As the truth is unveiled, this tug-and-pull, back-and-forth motion of the narrative moves deftly across the pages for the reader. Krakauer gives voice to the void.”
—Carol Lipszyc, author of The Saviour Shoes and Other Stories and Singing Me Home