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The Problems They Face

Eliana Tobias Author Interview

When We Return follows two people who are healing from historical trauma and struggle to find the courage to rebuild their lives and open up to love and companionship. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

I lived in Peru for a number of years during a time of turmoil. Most of the disturbances were taking place in remote locations and reported in the news in ambiguous ways. People wondered whether it was members of the Shining Path guerillas or those in the army responsible for the violence taking place. Years later I discovered how the media was purposefully not reporting the truth while thousands of people were disappearing and thousands forced to flee. This, as well as listening to stories of the Holocaust while growing up, provided me with inspiration for the story. I wanted to answer the one question that I was most curious about – how do people who live through horrors remake their lives?

Your characters are endearing and well developed. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

My characters have suffered a lot due to unfortunate and unforeseen geo-political circumstances that have threatened their way of life. They are strong and resilient individuals for whom survival matters greatly. And although memories of war are still raw when the readers meet them, they strive to obtain justice for the human rights violations they faced years ago.

Each has a particular backstory which drives their decisions and the paths they chose to take in life. Each is strongly motivated to overcome the problems they face in order to move forward and better their lives. They are mature, honest, compassionate, and hard working people who care about family, friendship and justice.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

  • Displacement of people caused by racialized and fractured societies reeling from autocratic governments.
  • People’s disappearances are cruel crimes that leave families with a lack of closure.
  • As perspectives of justice began to change after the second world war, people started to confront the sins of the past. Today countries are stepping up to find truth and justice for those who have suffered human rights violations.
  • The culture of remembrance – how will the past be remembered?
  • Intergenerational trauma
  • Issues of reparation, redemption.and reconciliation.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

We’ve heard the term ‘the personal is political’ – and this is the argument I keep in mind as I develop a story about a politically progressive civil rights lawyer working to help underserved people obtain social justice.

In my new story I explore the plight of women running away from their impoverished and violent Latin American countries, to find a sense of security in the US. But once they cross the border these women are either detained or deported back to their homes. The detainees find themselves in a punitive institution where they have no voice. All they have are displaced dreams and their future unknown. What they discover is a different reality than what they had hoped for as authoritarian government policies are being put in place. The immigrant women are mostly forgotten until the young lawyer rallies behind them so they can be heard.

Migration is an issue that needs to be understood; it needs to be managed in a humanitarian way. Our lawyer realizes that there is a long way to go before this can be achieved and it requires the help of a larger community of immigrant rights activists to hold the system accountable and make changes.

I’m just starting to develop the story and it will take me time before it’s ready to be published.

Author Links: GoodReads | Instagram | Website

Who should be held responsible for public wrongs?

By 2008, it finally seems that the Peruvian government is ready to make amends to its citizens following the violent guerilla movement of the last three decades.

Otilia and Salvador, a mother and son torn apart during the conflict and separated for twenty years, are eager for the government to acknowledge their pain and suffering, but they hit a roadblock when the government denies responsibility in their legal case.

Things begin to look up when Otilia meets Jerry, a kind man and the son of Jewish parents who escaped the Holocaust. Grappling with his own upbringing and the psychological struggles his parents endured, Jerry is just the person to empathize with Otilia’s situation. Together, Otilia, Jerry, and Salvador must support one another through the turbulent journey that is healing from historical trauma, and through it, they must find the courage to rebuild their lives and open themselves up to love and companionship.

Artfully weaving together different timelines and countries, Tobias examines the nuanced topic of grief a community endures after a collective tragedy. In this exploration of the culture of remembrance following displacement and loss, we discover what happens when our past calls us back to what we must do to achieve justice and reconciliation when we return.

When We Return

When We Return by Eliana Tobias is a heartfelt and satisfying historical novel that seamlessly follows two different countries and timelines. We follow Jerry, who uncovers a shocking secret that his father has been keeping. Unable to ask his father the truth because he passed away, Jerry begins to question if he really knew who his father was.

The story shifts to Otilia, who, after being separated from her son for 20yrs due to a civil war, she is now awaiting a hearing for compensation from the government. The story’s direction shifts to Salvador, Otilia’s son, as he is on a mission to understand what happened to his parents after they were separated. Jerry, Otilia, and Salvador’s storylines combine into one story where they team together to overcome several obstacles and uncover hidden truths. They try their best to help one another leave the past behind through love and friendship.

Author Eliana Tobias has written a historical and cultural masterpiece filled with drama and tension, making this one read that you must finish. The author expertly transitions from one character to the next without confusing the reader. I enjoyed that the author starts out by giving the reader a little bit of Jerry, Otilia, and Salvador’s background allowing the reader to get to know them.

From the turn of the first page, drama ensues, and you are immediately invested in their lives. You don’t expect each of the characters to cross paths until they actually do, and you realize that the author has intertwined their stories smoothly and seamlessly. The story is filled with a rich history that adds context to the story and the character’s motives. I enjoyed reading about all the characters, and it was hard not to like and sympathize with them. We learn of a man named Milan and later find that his backstory relates to Jerry. This just shows how powerful of a writer Eliana is. The story’s pace moved smoothly, and I was never lost or confused about what was going on.

When We Return is an excellent read for those who are history buffs but also for those who like heartwarming stories. I look forward to reading more from this author!

Pages: 297 | ASIN : B09ZBN14ML

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