At the end of the world, turn left

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A heart-rending look at love (for others and mostly, for self) and survival, and the not-always-lucid path we may take in service of both. As this character-based narrative slowly reveals (gracefully and with pitch-perfect pacing), plagued with insecurities, unable to shed uniquely devastating pasts, emerging into the light comes harder for some, and for others, perhaps not at all.

Now living in Wisconsin, USA, Maria Pavolva (Masha) and her younger sister (Anna) have long lived in the shadows cast by their grim and anxious Russian immigrant parents, counter-balanced only somewhat by the loving and more temperately-nostalgic bubble inhabited by their elderly grandparents. As is clearly evidenced by their traumas, escape from totalitarianism comes at a cost, one that may take a lifetime to leave behind, inevitably extending deeply and with stealthy fervor, leaving its murky trail across both decades and generations.

Masha, a twenty-five year old seeker, struggles with her identity as both a Russian and a Jew, as her fascination with linguistics reveals an underlying compulsion to find community, sanctuary, a people and a homeland. Masha’s fractured journey leads her first to Riverwest, a colorful, crime-ridden neighborhood offering a smorgasbord of drugs, alcohol and entertainment, catering to disenfranchised youth, train-hoppers and transients.

β€œSnow is now swirling in small little tornadoes around the orange glow of street laps up an down Bremen St, making me shiver in my shitty coat. β€œ

Anna, six years younger, an artist at heart, cannot help but follow in her sisters footsteps, as her own journey, a soul-ripping quest to find her true calling, takes her down an even more dark and dangerous path.

β€œBeing existentially lost has a smell; the room is drowning in it.”

Desperately driven, impossibly intense, this book has an ominous and steady atmospheric pull that cannot be resisted. For this reader, heart-in-mouth, the pages could not turn fast enough as the ending (which really could have gone anywhere) loomed unpredictably.

Highly recommended, from start-to-finish a wonderful, tragic and beautifully-crafted read. I look forward to reading more from this oh so talented author.

A great big thank you to Netgalley, the author, and the publisher for an ARC of this book. All thoughts presented are my own.


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