cover image The Nesting Dolls

The Nesting Dolls

Alina Adams. Harper, $27.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-291094-3

Adams’s finely detailed historical romance (after the soap opera tie-in Oakdale Confidential) follows five generations of headstrong, passionate Jewish women. In 2019 in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, Zoe is preparing her grandparents’ 45th anniversary party even though her grandmother Natasha doesn’t want one. In a series of flashbacks, Adams reveals why. In Odessa, Ukraine, during the 1930s, Zoe’s great-great grandmother Daria marries a brilliant concert pianist. They get by until their apartment building’s porter, Adam, a Stalinist informer, falsely alleges they were speaking German. In a strange twist of fate, Adam is jailed with them (“I was turned in for not turning you in”). In the 1970s, Daria’s mathematician granddaughter, Natasha, becomes the lover of Dmitri, a charismatic advocate for dissident Soviet Jews in Ukraine. Natasha helps Dmitri by copying and distributing banned books such as Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago. After Dmitri lands in prison, Natasha, pregnant with his child, immigrates to the U.S. with the help of her lifelong friend, Boris, whom she marries. Adams then returns to Zoe, who feels oppressed by her neighborhood’s gloom yet increasingly drawn to the lessons learned and imparted by her forebears. The author’s wry Soviet-Jewish humor enlivens the well-developed characters, who make fatal mistakes as well as selfless sacrifices. This is a satisfying, life-affirming saga. (July)