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Book Review – Pretending to Sleep

Monalisa Foster has penned a poignant, vivid depiction of life under communist rule in Pretending to Sleep:  A Communism Survivor’s Short Story.

Based on actual events, this short story provides a quick glimpse into life under Ceaucescu’s brutal communist regime. Like so many Romanians, ten-year-old Renata lives in fear of Securitate (Ceaucescu’s secret police). They don’t always take you in the middle of the night. In a world where the living envy the dead, not all examples are made in the shadows. Some are made in the light of day.

Pretending to Sleep depicts the events in a child’s life as she endures and escapes communist Romania.  The dehumanizing discipline and fear that such regimes demand is portrayed in simple, blunt language.  Ms. Foster’s tale is in the same vein as Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl or Ryabakov’s Children of the Arbat.

This is a short story, so I read through it quickly.  However, that made it easy to go back and reread it.  The narrative of Pretending to Sleep reminded me of stories told to me by folks who survived Stalin’s terror or suffered under the heel of the Stazi.

One more compliment I can give this book is that it’s appropriate for children older than 10 or 12 years old.  In fact, I’d say that it would be good for someone who is learning about the world to read it.  The evils of totalitarianism, communist or not, need to be retold so that we don’t forget them.

Give Pretending to Sleep a read.  It’ll definitely give you something to think about.

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