A remote Siberian town with a darkly fascinating history teems with life in this luminous linked debut collection
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.
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"I had high hopes for Melnik's debut, not least because the back cover compares this collection of linked short stories to Chekhov. After reading the entire book, I'm sorry to say I can't recommend it. Some of the stories are compelling but, overall, in too many places the writing is disjointed and makes for a frustrating read." - BookBrowse
"Starred Review. Achingly beautiful, this collection signals a writer to watch." - Kirkus
"With dry humor and detailed description, Melnik creates a historically enlightening time capsule of an unfamiliar world." - Publishers Weekly
"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
"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, award-winning author of Love Begins in Winter and The Illusion of Separateness
"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." - Laura van den Berg, author of The Isle of Youth
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Kseniya Melnik was born in Magadan, in the northeast of Russia, and immigrated to Alaska at age fifteen. She earned an MFA from New York University and her work has appeared in Brooklyn Rail, Epoch, Prospect (UK), Virginia Quarterly Review, and was selected for Granta Magazine's New Voices series. She lives in El Paso, Texas.
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