Your Presence Is Mandatory

A Novel

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Pub Date Apr 23 2024 | Archive Date Apr 30 2024
Bloomsbury USA | Bloomsbury Publishing

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A riveting debut novel, based on real events, about a World War II veteran with a secret that could land him in the Gulag, and his family who are forced to live in the shadow of all he has not told them.

Ukraine, 2007. Yefim Shulman, husband, grandfather and war veteran, was beloved by his family and his coworkers. But in the days after his death, his widow Nina finds a letter to the KGB in his briefcase. Yefim had a lifelong secret, and his confession forces them to reassess the man they thought they knew and the country he had defended.

In 1941, Yefim is a young artillerist on the border between the Soviet Union and Germany, eager to defend his country and his large Jewish family against Hitler's forces. But surviving the war requires sacrifices Yefim never imagined-and even when the war ends, his fight isn't over. He must conceal his choices from the KGB and from his family.

Spanning seven decades between World War II and the current Russia-Ukraine conflict, Your Presence Is Mandatory traces the effect Yefim's coverup had on the lives of Nina, their two children and grandchildren. In the process, Sasha Vasilyuk shines a light on one family caught between two totalitarian regimes, and the grace they find in the course of their survival.

A riveting debut novel, based on real events, about a World War II veteran with a secret that could land him in the Gulag, and his family who are forced to live in the shadow of all he has not told...

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ISBN 9781639731534
PRICE $28.99 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

Wow! A new favorite. I’m a sucker for WWII books and this is one of the best I’ve ever read. So much work went into this book & I hope that everyone has a chance to read it.

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Your Presence is Mandatory is, in my opinion, a masterpiece. It provides a unique perspective in a very crowded field of WWII stories in historical fiction. This journey is heart-breaking and thrilling in equal measure, due to both the war narrative and the later family dynamics that pepper the book as a counter-balance. The truly beautiful and impactful piece of this novel is that it is a soldiers story, a Jewish person's story, but it is also the story of his family around him, as history and decisions made reverberate throughout their lives.

I was so captivated by this novel and have no hardy critiques. The writing is lovely, but clear and straightforward. The flow is dynamic yet heartfelt enough to be savored. It felt particularly significant to receive anecdotal glimpses of the past connections and disconnections between Ukraine and Russia, particularly with what the World is watching today. I found the themes of guilt, betrayal, the pressure we put on ourselves, and put on us by others to be masterfully woven into this story. Your Presence is Mandatory will clench your stomach, break your heart, but it will also open your eyes. To me, those are the best kinds of stories.

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Historical fiction has the power to make history come alive. Your Presence is Mandatory is an epic novel that sheds light on the different way USSR treated their own soldiers who were captured by the enemy and held as POWs. As we follow Yerim Shulman throughout his life, a different picture emerges of life before, during, and after WWII for a Jewish Ukrainian man and his family. It’s a life that’s hard to imagine amid the comforts of our 21st century homes with all our conveniences and privileges. For me, that’s just one of the reasons this book is a must read. It’s dark and sad, but it’s a window to the present in Ukraine.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read this arc in exchange for an honest review.

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