Eager reader of history, mystery, classics, biographies, steampunk, lit fic, science, scifi, and etc. My reviews are mostly positive--I rarely finish or write about books I don't enjoy. My TBR is too high for that.
I’m not always one for short fiction but I was mostly enchanted by the beautiful writing, moving characters, and fascinating almost other-world setting of these linked stories. Magadan is in a frigid far-flung eastern corner of the Soviet Union/Russia, not so far from Alaska, and while it was made notorious by its connection to Stalin’s forced-labor camps afterward it became home to an eclectic mix of artists, professionals, faith healing witches, ex-prisoners, musicians, intellectuals, and Party faithful. It’s this lively, intriguing group of people who populate the book.
The stories move back and forth in time, from 1958 to 2012, with evocative scenes of the daily lives, loves, struggles, reflections, and ambitions of these Soviet and then Russian citizens--a few of whom immigrate the short distance across the sea to America--as they coped with snow, shortages, difficult spouses, tempting propositions, and a changing world. Adults featured in one sometimes show up as children or grandchildren or secondary characters in another, which is fun to spot, layering the stories like nesting matryoshka dolls. Author Kseniya Melnik excels at creating characters that draw you into their narratives and touch you with their earnest, imperfect humanness. Some of their observations are just wonderful, for instance in the story Rumba an aging dance instructor compares the passage of time to a brilliant caricaturist, shrinking the eyes, ripening the nose, and drooping the jowls.
Individual pieces are the right length to be comfortably read in one sitting. Melnik has created gem-like collection of stories, multi-layered and affecting.