Three Apples Fell from the Sky

Narine Abgaryan, trans. from the Russian by Lisa C. Hayden. Oneworld, $16.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-78607-875-9
In Abgaryan’s grim, fantastical debut, the dwindling residents of a tiny Armenian mountain village look back on a series of disasters—drought, famine, a massive earthquake—and find strength in supernatural visions. Anatolia, at age 58, is the youngest of the town’s 50 residents, the others having perished in the series of disasters or fled. Having survived a childless marriage after the death of her abusive husband, Anatolia believes she’s dying because she’s suffering intense vaginal bleeding. After the bleeding subsides and Anatolia recovers, the widowed village blacksmith, Vasily, convinces Anatolia to marry him. Grief, beliefs, and comforting customs, such as receiving visions and responding to dream interpretations, unite the villagers, and Abgaryan grounds the book’s magical details by showing their power over the characters (“the Maranians were a rational superstitious people who nevertheless believed in dreams and signs”), such as an auspicious appearance of a peacock after the birth of a child, and the surprising explanation for Anatolia’s bleeding. Abgaryan impresses with finely phrased descriptions of daily activities and homes with “chimneys that clung to the hem of the sky,” and indelible details of complex, humble characters. This magical tale transcends familiar mystical tropes with its fresh reimagining of Armenian folklore. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 02/25/2020
Genre: Fiction
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