For thirteen-year-old Sarah Waldman, life in the small Polish town of Olkusz is idyllic, grounded in her loving, close-knit family and the traditions of their Jewish faith.  But in 1939, as the Nazis come to power, a storm is gathering—a relentless, unforgiving storm
that will sweep Sarah and her family into years of misery in the ghetto and concentration camps,
tearing them apart.


Will Sarah’s strong will and determination be enough for her to survive when everything she loves is taken from her?  Is it possible to resurrect a life—and find love—from the ruins?  Or will Sarah be forever haunted

by the memories of what she lost?

Part memoir, part fiction, What She Lost is the reimagined true-life story of the author’s grandmother growing into a woman amid the anguish of the Holocaust. It is a tale of resilience, of rebuilding a life, and of rediscovering love.

"The author succeeds in bringing her grandmother's world to life; it's hard to emerge from this reading experience unaffected.  Told with unflinching honesty, the book is simultaneously engrossing and painful to read because of the tragedies experienced by the family during the Holocaust.  But rather than being all about darkness and tragedy, ultimately this is a book about resiliency and the ability to heal from a life replete with loss."

-Hilary Daninhirsch, The Historical Novel Review, Issue 91


"How can a character be more real than when based on a real person?  Even real women can be told as one-planed and stereotypical, but fortunately for us, we get to experience Sarah's life through someone who saw the humanity and the growing girl beneath the overarching horrors of the Holocaust.  Hunter's retelling of her grandmother's story isn't just about growing up or the Holocaust, but understanding the incredible capacities of humankind - for compassion, strength, and survival as well as cruelty, cowardice, and complacency, as seen through the eyes of an incredible woman."

- Break the Bechdel with Strong Female Characters Syndicate Selection

What Amazon readers have to say:

"Beautifully written, haunting and hopeful.

The beautifully written book captured me from the very beginning.  Haunting & hopeful at the same time.  I've never read a novel about these horrific times that explored the aftermath of the camps being liberated.  The 'rescue' so often ends the story.  But, (Hunter's) exploration of survival and moving forward after the camps was gut wrenching and moving.  I highly recommend this author and novel.  I can't wait to read more from Melissa W. Hunter!"

"Great story of love and perseverance!

This book kept my attention and was a great read!  It does a great job of showing the trying time period without being too horrific.  If you enjoyed The Nightingale or Lilac Girls, you will love this!"

"A gripping account of one woman's strength, courage and survival that was both captivating and difficult to imagine at the same time.  What She Lost is a triumph and a sober reminder of what was and must never be again.  Loved it!!"

"Captivating & sensitive, new voice for the world to hear so we never forget.

A captivating story about a Jewish girl coming of age in the midst of the Holocaust.  Beautifully and sensitively written in a way that makes the horrifying stories an easy, although certainly not a light read.  I was so wrapped up in the characters and Hunter's writing that my first tears were shed before page 25.  Based on the real life experiences of the author's grandmother, she brings honor to her family's legacy and brings  a new voice for the world to hear (so) we must never forget."

"Couldn't put it down!!"

Watch the Interview 
"One afternoon nearly 20 years ago, I sat down with my grandmother and a video camera and recorded her story.  Here are some clips of the interview on which I based my novel."  

Visit the

What She Lost

page for links to more videos


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