Book Blast (and Giveaway!): They Were Like Family to Me by Helen Maryles Shankman

October 5, 2016 giveaway, historical 20


Critically praised, beloved by readers, In the Land of Armadillos has an evocative new cover and title, They Were Like Family to Me. Now in Paperback! Available October 4.

1942. With the Nazi Party at the height of its power, the occupying army empties Poland’s towns and cities of their Jewish citizens. As neighbor turns on neighbor and survival often demands unthinkable choices, Poland has become a moral quagmire—a place of shifting truths and blinding ambiguities.

Blending folklore and fact, Helen Maryles Shankman shows us the people of Wlodawa, a remote Polish town. We meet a cold-blooded SS officer dedicated to rescuing the Jewish creator of his son’s favorite picture book; a Messiah who appears in a little boy’s bedroom to announce that he is quitting; a young Jewish girl who is hidden by the town’s most outspoken anti-Semite—and his talking dog. And walking among these tales are two unforgettable figures: silver-tongued Willy Reinhart, commandant of the forced labor camp who has grand schemes to protect “his” Jews, and Soroka, the Jewish saddlemaker, struggling to survive.

Channeling the mythic magic of classic storytellers like Sholem Aleichem and Isaac Bashevis Singer and the psychological acuity of modern-day masters like Nicole Krauss and Nathan Englander, They Were Like Family to Me is a testament to the persistence of humanity in the most inhuman conditions.


“One of the most original and consistently captivating short story collections to have appeared in recent years…(They Were Like Family to Me) is a singularly inventive collection of chilling stark realism enhanced by the hallucinatory ingredient of top-drawer magical realism, interrogating the value of art, storytelling, and dreams in a time of peril and presenting hard truths with wisdom, magic, and grace.” —Jewish Book Council

“Moving and unsettling…Like Joyce’s Dubliners, this book circles the same streets and encounters the same people as it depicts the horrors of Germany’s invasion of Poland through the microcosm of one village…Shankman’s prose is inventive and taut… A deeply humane demonstration of wringing art from catastrophe.” —Kirkus Reviews

“…by turns forthright and tender, oblique and intimate, brutal and ethereal…Though each story stands beautifully on its own, it is the completed tapestry of interwoven details that finally reveals the entire picture and provides the full emotional depth of the collected stories…The author’s greatest accomplishment is in leaving the horror to speak for itself, and instead giving voice to the enchantment.” —Historical Novel Society

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about the author


Helen Maryles Shankman’s stories have been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes. She was a finalist in Narrative Magazine’s Story Contest and earned an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers competition. Her stories have appeared in The Kenyon ReviewGargoyleCream City Review2 Bridges ReviewGrift,, and other publications. She is the author of the critically acclaimed novel The Color of Light and the story collection They Were Like Family to Me. She lives in New Jersey, with her husband and four children.

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giveaway RIMSP

TLC Book Tours is offering one of my readers a chance to win a paperback copy of They Were Like Family To Me.

US/CAN mailing addresses only, please.

(As I have not personally read this book, I cannot comment on its content rating.)

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20 Responses to “Book Blast (and Giveaway!): They Were Like Family to Me by Helen Maryles Shankman”

  1. Melissa

    The story that most interests me at this time is “They Were Like Family To Me”.

  2. Valerie S.

    I really enjoy linked short story collections and my husband is 100% Polish (first generation American) so this book really interests me. I’m most intrigued by the story about the Messiah who announces he is quitting.

  3. dianne casey

    The story that interests me is the SS officer that is determined to save the Jewish author of his son’s favorite picture book.

  4. Marilyn

    The anti-Semetic who hides the little girl. This is going to be an interesting read. Thanks for the giveaway.

  5. carylkane

    The story that most intrigues me is the one of a young Jewish girl who is hidden by the town’s most outspoken anti-Semite—and his talking dog.

    Carrie, thank you for being a part of this tour.

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