“The last checkmate:” Grandfather’s interest in WWII leads Saab to write a novel about the Polish girl and her resistance
Gabriella Saab’s lifelong dream came true this year when her book âThe Last Checkmateâ hit shelves around the world. Saab was born in Pennsylvania and currently lives in Mobile, however, she spent much of her childhood in the Jackson area where her parents are from and much of her family still lives. It is here that his love for reading and writing flourishes and grows.
â(Writing a book is a dream of mine) since I was a little girl,â Saab said. “I remember it vividly – I was six when I wrote an inspired Nancy Drew short story because I loved these books and read them all.”
His grandfather, the late David Clement, was very influential in Saab’s love of literature and history, and that love was something they bonded over. Her grandmother Elvie Clement still lives in Madison County.
âMy whole family comes from nurturing this love for learning and reading and ultimately for writing,â Saab said. âA book has always been my goal.
Saab was inspired by his grandfather’s interest in history and was particularly interested in World War II. She was only seven or eight years old when she started reading battle books during this time, and questions with answers beyond those the books could provide were forming in her head.
âI thought it was so fascinating and the fact that it wasn’t too long ago,â Saab said. âI’ve always been interested in what people do at home. You hear about battles and all that at school, but I was wondering, “What were the women doing?” What were the children doing? What was happening in these occupied countries? ”
As she got older, Saab devoured all literature – fiction and non-fiction – on the subject and began to uncover untold stories about women, resistance and more.
âI wanted to dive into another area of ââthe topic to help bring more of these stories to the fore,â Saab said.
After graduating from Mississippi State in 2016 with a degree in business administration and marketing, Saab returned to Mobile and began working on her novel, even going to Poland for further research. “The Last Checkmate” follows the story of a young girl named Maria who works for the Polish resistance in occupied Warsaw. She is captured and sent to Auschwitz where she is forced to play chess in exchange for her life as she tries to obtain justice for her family.
“It is inspired by true stories of the Polish resistance and the resistance movement of the Auschwitz camps,” Saab said. âThere was a women’s orchestra at Auschwitz, which is a group of women who were spared death but forced to use their musical talents to entertain the guards playing during difficult times in prisoners’ lives, such as during executions. They were spared death but had to do this very psychologically traumatic thing in order to live. ”
The book was released on October 19 and has since been named PopSugar Best Book of the Year, chosen for Radio Personality Book Club Delilah, ranked fifth in Mississippi Top Reads by Clarion Ledger, and featured in Articles at local, national and global levels.
âAll the support and the way people responded to the book has been amazing,â Saab said. âPeople reached out to me through social media or through my website to tell me that they had read the book and that it meant something to them. I even had someone who saw the mention of an actual historical figure that I referred to in the book who was that person’s real cousin and they reached out because they grabbed this reference. The way that impacted people and brought them to me and made them feel comfortable enough to share their stories is amazing. ”
Saab said that sharing this connection with readers through his book has been a very special and humbling experience. She said she hoped readers will see how, despite all the evils that are happening, there are still good people in the world who are trying to do the right thing and find the good in the midst of all the darkness and to find hope.
âAt the end of the day, hope is what got people through this experience and experiences like this,â Saab said. âIf they didn’t have hope to hold onto, they weren’t going to survive. But if they could find that little bit of goodness or hope, it would help support them. To do this, they often had to find someone else to carry this with you and join you in this struggle. I hope this is the message readers get from it and realize that no matter what is going on in the world or in their lives, they can always find it and it will support them through an experience like this- this.
During its launch week, Saab did a Lemuria book signing in Jackson and his book can still be found there. It is also sold on Amazon, wherever books are sold, and available as an audiobook. Her next in-person event will be at the Monroeville Literary Festival on March 4-5.
âThank you Mississippi for supporting me and this book, and for being the place where my love of reading has been truly nurtured and encouraged from an early age. It allowed me to see my little girl’s dream come true, âSaab said. âI hope to continue writing and sharing these stories of women in history and untold stories from times in history like this and others. I have a few other projects in the pipeline that I can hopefully share more of in the future.