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"Achingly beautiful, this collection signals a writer to watch."—KIRKUS REVIEWS (STARRED REVIEW)
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Nine miniature epics.
Kseniya Melnik's Snow in May introduces a cast of characters bound by their relationship to the port town of Magadan in Russia's Far East, a former gateway for prisoners assigned to Stalin’s forced-labor camps. Comprised of a surprising mix of newly minted professionals, ex-prisoners, intellectuals, musicians, and faithful Party workers, the community is vibrant and resilient and life in Magadan thrives even under the cover of near-perpetual snow. By blending history and fable, each of Melnik's stories transports us somewhere completely new: a married Magadan woman considers a proposition from an Italian footballer in '70s Moscow; an ailing young girl visits a witch doctor’s house where nothing is as it seems; a middle-aged dance teacher is entranced by a new student’s raw talent; a former Soviet boss tells his granddaughter the story of a thorny friendship; and a woman in 1958 jumps into a marriage with an army officer far too soon.
Weaving in and out of the last half of the twentieth century, Snow in May is an inventive, gorgeously rendered, and touching portrait of lives lived on the periphery where, despite their isolation—and perhaps because of it—the most seemingly insignificant moments can be beautiful, haunting, and effervescent.
(description from the publishers' catalog)
"Kseniya Melnik's beautiful Snow in May is an education in how history is routed, refracted, and reconciled inside the human heart. In sonorous, evocative prose, the triumphs and tragedies of Magadan are vividly brought to life. In 1890, Chekhov traveled to the Russian Far East—had he made the journey a century later, and gone a little farther north, these stories may well have been the result." Anthony Marra, author of the bestselling and award-winning A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
“Kseniya Melnik’s breathtaking debut, Snow in May, is extraordinarily perceptive about how landscape shapes us—and continues to shape us long after we have left it. Though the stories revolve around haunted, wintry Magadan, they are anything but cold. Alight with wry humor and compassion and complex truths about the conditions of the soul, Melnik’s tales burn with life.” Laura van den Berg, author of The Isle of Youth
"Snow in May does more than herald a new writer of talent; it coheres, it radiates heat, and it's the best story collection you'll read this year. If Kseniya Melnik writes prose the way it should be written, that is ecstatically (to borrow Updike's phrase), maybe it's because she shares some of Nabokov's pedigree. But her talent is her own." Darin Strauss, bestselling author of Chang and Eng, More Than It Hurts You, and Half a Life
"Kseniya Melnik’s assured debut Snow in May is a book about extremes. In the Russian Far East, her characters cope with extreme weather, extreme punishment and deprivation, and extreme change as the USSR falls apart. These stories are a wonderful introduction to late-twentieth-century Russia and to Kseniya Melnik, a talent for the twenty-first century."
Elliott Holt, author of You Are One of Them
“Funny and sad, tender and tough, Melnik's stories reveal a writer who is wise and insightful beyond her years. Melnik's grasp of the realities of the twentieth century Russian Far East is startlingly accurate, but these stories are not anthropological studies - the characters transcend the setting, and they will break your heart.” Anya Ulinich, author of Petropolis
"Spanning the second half of the 20th century, these haunting stories depict the struggles of disparate characters working to escape the dark history of a Siberian outpost. Here are lives are filled with palpable yearning. A beautiful and assured debut." Jennifer Vanderbes, author of Easter Island and The Secret of Raven Point
"Kseniya Melnik's stories are full and expansive in the way of Alice Munro's; the reader is pulled under, willingly, into seedy and sensual worlds, like 70s Moscow and a Russian military base. Melnik's characters long for happiness and stability and face morally complex lives, the threat of menace and failure just around the corner. To read her striking, original work is to be enchanted and utterly transported." Megan Mayhew Bergman, author of Birds of a Lesser Paradise
“Like some improbable magician of the mundane, Kseniya Melnik waves her literary wand over drab Soviet cities and their unsmiling denizens and the world cracks into color. A moldering Khrushchyovka, an endless line for an ill-fitting dress, a dance studio in disrepair all form a key to mysterious interior landscapes teaming with hope, heartbreak, and the ever-tantalizing prospect of salvation. Snow in May is like that fabled snow globe of your dreams—to open it is to be transfixed.” Alina Simone, author of You Must Go and Win and Note to Self
"These stories sparkle with the brilliance and charm of Chekhov--while possessing a modern grace and rare intimacy that are unique to the literary talent of Kseniya Melnik." Simon Van Booy, author of Love Begins in Winter and The Illusion of Separateness
"Melnik is very talented, and this is an unerringly assured and dextrous first book. It’s a big compliment when I say it merits comparison to Jennifer Egan’s wonderful A Visit from the Goon Squad – the way perspectives prismatically glide from character to character and era to era, showing the simultaneously redemptive and remorseless work of Time in lucid and elaborate cross-section. Needless to say, though each story works on its own, they build beautifully together.
The writing itself is achieved, finished, and gleams with unexpected imagery, gorgeous idiomatic reconfigurations of clichés and memorable aphorisms." Colin Barrett, author of Young Skins