Author * Speaker * Editor

Excellent storytelling, accurate historical reporting, and gritty, persevering characters

The Story behind Like a River from Its Course by Kelli Stuart

Please join me in welcoming Kelli Stuart to the Story behind the Story. I’m so excited to have her here, as she shares a story that really excites me, and one you’ll want to be sure to read.

First, a little bit about her book, Like a River from It’s Course.

Like a River from its CourseThe city of Kiev was bombed in Hitler’s blitzkrieg across the Soviet Union, but the constant siege was only the beginning for her citizens. In this sweeping historical saga, Kelli Stuart takes the reader on a captivating journey into the little-known history of Ukraine’s tragedies through the eyes of four compelling characters who experience the same story from different perspectives.

Maria Ivanovna is only fourteen when the bombing begins and not much older when she is forced into work at a German labor camp. She must fight to survive and to make her way back to her beloved Ukraine.

Ivan Kyrilovich is falsely mistaken for a Jew and lined up with 34,000 other men, women, and children who are to be shot at the edge of Babi Yar, the “killing ditch”. He survived, but not without devastating consequences.

Luda Michaelevna never knew her mother. Growing up with an alcoholic father, Luda is only sixteen when the Nazis invade, and she’s brutally attacked due to her father’s negligence. Now pregnant with the child of the enemy, she is abandoned, alone, and in pain. She must learn to trust again and find her own strength in order to discover the redemption that awaits.

Frederick Herrmann is sure in his knowledge that the Führer’s plans for domination are right and just. He is driven to success by a desire to please a demanding father and by his own blind faith in the ideals of Nazism.

Oh, that sounds so good, Kelli. Can you share with us what inspired you to write the book?

My story begins on an airplane.

I was fifteen years old, struggling with all the angst and turmoil that comes with being a teenager, and I’d been invited to travel to the other side of the world, to a country I’d never heard of, and minister to other kids just like me.

Only they weren’t just like me, you see, because until just three years before I arrived in their homeland, they had lived under the rule of communism. They had witnessed firsthand the fall of the Iron Curtain, and the culmination of what it meant to live independently.

Here I was, a young American girl with no concept or understanding of the world outside my narrow borders, and I looked out the window of our airplane as we taxied down the runway in Minsk, Belarus, and I knew immediately that I would be back.

It was as though the fabric of that part of the world had long ago been knit into the fibers of my very being.

When I returned home two weeks later, I could say a handful of phrases in Russian, and I was already planning when I would return.

I spent the spring breaks of my junior and senior years in high school in Kiev, Ukraine. While there I met a woman named Maria Ivanovna whose story of survival in a World War II Nazi slave labor camp left me wide-eyed at the reality of a history I’d never much considered.

In college, I returned to Kiev, spending a semester in the city exploring, studying Russian, meeting people, and further placing roots in a land that somehow felt like a second home to me.

I wanted to tell the stories of that country, because they were stories I’d not heard before, and they were real to me. I spoke with countless veterans, and many men and women who worked as partisans in those long war years.

In 2003, I was pregnant with my first child, and I knew that if I was going to finish telling the stories, this was my last chance for a long time to gather them, so I returned to Ukraine one more time, and I spent a month touring the country, speaking to people along the way, and dreaming up the stories I would tell.

Life, and babies, and the mounds of research I did to ensure accuracy made writing the books a slow process, but finally, mercifully, I typed THE END.

Like a River From Its Course started on an airplane in 1994. It ignited in the heart of an insecure girl with a penchant for the written word. It is the real life stories of the many men and women who faced the worst that humanity had to offer, and lived to tell me the story.

In turn, they asked that I tell you, and so I have. This novel is the culmination of a lifetime’s worth of dreaming, wishing, toiling, believing, and living.

And today I offer it all back to the world, praying I’ve honored well the history, the people, and the dream.

Like a River From Its Course follows the stories of four unique characters, allowing the reader to experience World War II through their eyes. It is a story of grief, heartache, hope, and redemption, and it’s now available for purchase!

This is my gift to every reader who thinks they’ve heard all there is to hear about World War II. These are the stories you’ve been waiting for.

Kelli StuartKelli Stuart is a storyteller at heart with an affinity for languages, travel, and history. She is fluent in the Russian language, and has spent the last twenty years researching the effects of World War II on the former Soviet Union. Kelli’s first novel, Like a River From Its Course, is an epic story of war, love, grief, and redemption set in World War II Soviet Ukraine. It releases June 27, 2016. Kelli lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband and four children.

Wow, that is an amazing story. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. Kelli is giving away a copy of the book to one very lucky winner. Follow the instructions below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck to you all!


  1. I really HAVE to read this book!! Such a great interview! Thank you!

    • I am not familiar at all with WW II in the Ukraine, but hope to be more familiar with it after reading this book.

  2. I enjoyed this book so much. I stayed up late into the night to finish it because I just couldn’t put it down. The characters seem so real, and I was fascinated by the history that I’d never heard.

  3. I have read quite a number of non-fiction and fiction books set during WWII, although there are somewhat limited fiction choices available. Based on this, I am more familiar with issues impacting the civilian populations of Poland, Czechoslovakia, and France, as those seem to be more broadly covered in print. I am very much looking forward to this book and appreciate reading the interview. Thanks!

  4. Thanks so much for this feature, Liz! I really appreciate it.

  5. I love reading WWII stories, but haven’t read any taking place in the Ukraine.

  6. I am not familiar with WWII in Ukraine – was that part of Poland at that time? I enjoy reading books of the Holocaust and about people who lived through WWII.

    • Hi Karen – Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union. In 1939, Hitler and Stalin signed a non-aggression pact in which the western part of what is now Ukraine was taken from Poland and given to the USSR. That portion of the country has a long history of tug of war, and most of the current tensions between Russia and Ukraine today stem from that western area. The history of that region is actually quite fascinating for a history nerd like me. 🙂

  7. I am not familiar with it at all.

  8. I’m not familiar at all with the Ukraine and WWII, but I remember studying USSR history and some of its role in the war.

  9. So many lovely comments here! Thank you everyone. 🙂

    If any of you are interested in a very brief, concise history of Ukraine, here’s a post I wrote for the Huffington Post a couple of months ago.

  10. Great interview with Kelli. I’m not familiar with WWII in Ukraine. This story sounds incredible.

    Thank you for the chance.

  11. Sounds really good. Would love to read and review it.

  12. Sounds like s book that I would really enjoy.

  13. I had never heard of the Ukraine’s involvement in World War II. I knew that Russia was involved, but I guess it never occurred to me that there was any fighting inside its borders. I have nephews who were adopted from Ukraine so I think this could be very interesting to me.

  14. I loved this book. I think it’s a great read for everyone. I wish I could’ve read this when I was in high school. Maybe it could help put my perceived angst into perspective.