A Mountain of Crumbs

Usually when such a blessing as a date night comes along, Ryan and I choose to stay in, order Chinese food and watch tv shows as loud as we want (we’ve been alternating between Firefly and Slings and Arrows). But a few weeks ago, when my parents wanted extra penance watched all three kids for a few hours, we decided to get out of the house and stay out. After dinner we went to our old stand-by, Barnes and Noble. Since we had a little extra money in our pockets, Ryan suggested we make a game out of the bookstore trip — split up and each look for a book the other would enjoy.

We both turned up with books by Ann Patchett

To further prove we are two peas in a pod, we both admitted to picking something else out first then at the last minute switching to Patchett thinking it to be the safer choice. While I still maintain that Ryan would enjoy reading Bel Canto, he went home happy with my first choice. Ryan’s first choice for me was a discounted, buried memoir, A Mountain of Crumbs.

For the past 5 or so years, I’ve been interested in Russian history. Mostly, I’ve read about Nicholas II and the beginnings of the Bolshevik Revolution. To say I’ve been actively interested in this for 5 years, and have covered less than 50 years worth of time, says something; Russian history is dense and mysterious! I’ve enjoyed diving into a culture I knew little about (even after spending a week in Siberia, go figure!) and slowly becoming acquainted with it. Having a fair understanding of Tsar to Lenin to Stalin, I enjoyed jumping ahead to a time I can more personally relate to.

The author, Elena Gorokhova, is roughly my parents’ age, plus or minus 5 years. Growing up in the Leningrad, she describes her school years in a way that very well could have been my own parents’ childhoods. Spending summers at the family dacha or taking the red kerchief of the Pioneers could just as well be summers on Belle River or a Girl Scout badge ceremony. It’s only as the author ages and grows in both knowledge of the English language and cynicism of the Soviet Union, do the differences between the worlds appear. The author watches her stalwart mother, so like the Party she loves, cling to a bright future which is no longer on the horizon. She longs to leave their disillusioned life for something better. Something English.

It would seem life on the other side of the iron curtain is intriguing, no matter which side you’re on. I was fascinated by the day to day life of Russia in the 1960’s and 70’s.  Both in what seemed normal and what was stiff and uncomfortable. My only complaint being that the author seems to loose steam at the end. The gusto and poetry she writes with fizzles out and the book just sort of ends. Nonetheless, I would heartily recommend it.

I am very glad Ryan found this book…and surprised me with State of Wonder last week so I can read it too 😉

P.S. I’ve had “A Mountain of Love” stuck in my head ever since starting this book.


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