Once Upon a Book Club Box is a monthly subscription box that features a newly released novel each month along with 3-5 gifts that correspond with the selected novel. As an employee of Once Upon a Book Club, this is an overview of the February box, not an official review. Continue reading for a coupon code!
I have been enjoying my time so much with Once Upon a Book Club and I’m so excited to begin sharing the inner workings of our gifts, why they were selected and the details of our boxes.
Our February book selection was From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon, a December Historical Fiction release that takes place in Italy and focuses on a Jewish woman, Eva, and her childhood friend and love interest Angelo, in the heart of World War II. Read the full synopsis below!
Italy, 1943—Germany occupies much of the country, placing the Jewish population in grave danger during World War II.
As children, Eva Rosselli and Angelo Bianco were raised like family but divided by circumstance and religion. As the years go by, the two find themselves falling in love. But the church calls to Angelo and, despite his deep feelings for Eva, he chooses the priesthood.
Now, more than a decade later, Angelo is a Catholic priest and Eva is a woman with nowhere to turn. With the Gestapo closing in, Angelo hides Eva within the walls of a convent, where Eva discovers she is just one of many Jews being sheltered by the Catholic Church.
But Eva can’t quietly hide, waiting for deliverance, while Angelo risks everything to keep her safe. With the world at war and so many in need, Angelo and Eva face trial after trial, choice after agonizing choice, until fate and fortune finally collide, leaving them with the most difficult decision of all.
This story was a powerful and moving addition to our boxes and we were so excited to include one of Amy Harmon’s powerful books.
The gifts began simple enough, but they blossomed into pieces that we felt would help our readers to connect to the story in the best way possible.
Our first gift, on page 190, comes at a moment where Eva is struggling to pass her fake identity to a German officer. As a Jewish woman, her fake ID provided her only security from being taken from her home. We used this moment of Eva’s fear to create our first gift. Wrapped in pink wrapping and tied off with a brown ribbon, our readers opened the first gift to find Eva’s yellow shoulder bag that she “fumbled through”, as well as her fake pass that she “set in his hand.” The fake pass was created using official, registered fake passes from WWII that we found while researching for this box. We changed the name to Eva Rosselli to match the character in the book and found a photograph that we thought Eva would have looked like.
Opening this gift, we felt that our readers would feel that rush that Eva felt as she used her pass for the first time to escape being taken, as well as the awe at having something fictional but historically accurate in their hands.
Our next gift on page 221 came in a tiny little brown drawstring bag, labeled with the page number. This comes at a time where Eva is working undercover among German officers stationed in Italy and she comes across a massive bin overflowing with jewelry taken from Italian Jews. As our readers opened this gift, they found a heartbreaking item, a ring that was owned by own of Eva’s friends who had given it up to protect her friends and neighbors who were being taken. Eva stashes it and returns it to her.
This ring was inspired by the details as mentioned in the book, a small gold band with alternating clear and green stones. We felt it was an important moment for readers to feel that pain that Eva felt when she discovered what had been taken from her Jewish counterparts and left forgotten about in a storage locker.
The third gift came shortly after on page 239; and the details that went into this one was quite intriguing. The wrapping paper, which is an article from an American military paper called “The Stars and Stripes” is an authentic newspaper that was printed in the same month that this section of the book is discussing. We found and reprinted it for the purpose of wrapping up this gift to make it as authentic to the story as possible. What was inside the wrapping paper? In the book, it’s a set of documents, however we didn’t want anything to fall out. We decided to include a grey wallet, with the documents zipped inside.
In the story, this is an absolutely heartbreaking moment, and in all honesty, I cried opening this gift. I knew this one would have an impact but I wasn’t expecting it to affect me the way it did. I was so pleased to have developed such an emotional connection to the story, but opening this gift reinforced it immensely.
Finally, our last gift came in a rectangular box, and was labeled for page 368, the final page of the book. No spoilers for those of you who haven’t read the story, but inside was a candle, printed delicately with a music staff and notes. Eva is a musician and she plays the violin beautifully. At the end of the book, a candle is lit and with the music notes we felt this was immensely fitting to wrap up the book as a whole.
Overall, this was an incredibly powerful and heartbreaking book to read. The gifts themselves were so powerful and we hope that our selections perhaps make a bit more sense now that you’ve read why we selected what we did.
If you’d like to sign up for a Once Upon a Book Club Box, you can view our current hints on our home page on our website, and you can sign up at any time! Be sure to use coupon code ELVES10 for 10% off your first order! Thanks for reading!