cover image The Snow Hare

The Snow Hare

Paula Lichtarowicz. Little, Brown, $29 (384p) ISBN 978-0-316-46135-1

Lichtarowicz (Creative Truths in Provincial Policing) delivers a dramatic story of a Polish woman’s coming-of-age during WWII. Lena, drifting in and out of consciousness on her deathbed in present day England, reflects on her youth in southern Poland in the 1930s, when she aspired to be a medical student. After she’s badly injured by a streetcar, a soldier named Anton who was courting her devotedly sits by her bedside, and her parents, with Austen-esque machinations, consent for Anton to marry her. They have a daughter after she unsuccessfully tries to run away, and soon he’s imprisoned as a traitor by the new Soviet-controlled government. Lena and her family, meanwhile, are sent to a labor camp in Siberia, where she finds a lifeline in Grigori, a Russian guard who at one point takes Lena by sleigh to the tundra, where he shoots an elk and trades its meat for a dairy goat whose milk helps keep Lena, her daughter, and her infant nephew alive. When her time is up at the camp, she’s confronted with the complex reality of her prospects with Grigori and Anton. The gripping narrative of Lena’s wartime experiences contrasts bleak deprivation and suffering with sumptuous scenes of familial affection and the ache of true love. This will transport readers. Agent: Clare Alexander, Aitken Alexander Assoc. (Jan.)