Zhadan, Serhiy. Translated by Reilly Costigan-Humes and Isaac Wheeler. Voroshilovgrad. Deep Vellum Publishing, 2016.
A city-dwelling advertising executive heads home to take over his brother’s gas station after he mysteriously disappears, but all he finds at home are mysteries and ghosts. The industrial landscape of now-war-torn eastern Ukraine sets the stage for Voroshilovgrad, mixing magical realism and exhilarating road novel in the poetic, expressive prose that marks Ukrainian literary rockstar Serhiy Zhadan’s vivacious style.
Zhadan, Serhiy. Mesopotamia. Yale University Press, 2018.
This captivating book is Serhiy Zhadan’s ode to Kharkiv, the traditionally Russian-speaking city in Eastern Ukraine where he makes his home. A leader among Ukrainian post-independence authors, Zhadan employs both prose and poetry to address the disillusionment, complications, and complexities that have marked Ukrainian life in the decades following the Soviet Union’s collapse.
Słoniowska, Żanna. The House with the Stained-Glass Window. MacLehose Press, 2017.
In 1989, Marianna, the beautiful star soprano at the Lviv opera, is shot dead in the street as she leads the Ukrainian citizens in their protest against Soviet power. Only eleven years old at the time, her daughter tells the story of their family before and after that critical moment – including, ten years later, her own passionate affair with an older, married man. Just like their home city of Lviv, which stands at the crossroads of nations and cultures, the women in this family have had turbulent lives, scarred by war and political turmoil, but also by their own inability to show each other their feelings. Lyrically told, this is the story of a young girl's emotional, sexual, artistic and political awakening as she matures under the influence of her relatives, her mother's former lover, her city and its fortunes.
Grossman, Vasily. Translated by Robert Chandler, Elizabeth Chandler and Anna Aslanyan. Everything Flows. NYRB Classics, 2009.
Everything Flows is Vasily Grossman’s final testament, written after the Soviet authorities suppressed his masterpiece, Life and Fate. The main story is simple: released after thirty years in the Soviet camps, Ivan Grigoryevich must struggle to find a place for himself in an unfamiliar world.
Doerr Anthony. All the Light We Cannot See. Scribner, 2014.
Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel. In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.
Hosseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner. Riverhead Books, 2003.
The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.