cover image Winterland


Rae Meadows. Holt, $27.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-250-83452-2

Spanning two decades, this brooding mystery/bildungsroman from Meadows (I Will Send Rain) begins in Norilsk, Siberia, in 1973, with eight-year-old Anya Petrova’s acceptance into the Soviet gymnastics program. Anya’s father, pyrometallurgist Yuri, is relieved; now that the Motherland considers his daughter an asset, they will take care of her—something he’s felt increasingly unfit to do since his wife, Katerina, vanished three years earlier. Anya dreams of defying gravity, like Olympian Olga Korbut, and secretly hopes that if she makes the 1980 Moscow Olympics team, her mother will see her on television and come home. Katerina’s disillusionment with the Communist Party likely got her in trouble, but it’s also possible the former Bolshoi ballerina simply ran away to dance. Sections from the perspective of the Petrovas’ elderly neighbor, Vera Kuznetsova, detail her own decade in the gulag, as well as conversations Vera had with Katerina that contextualize her disappearance. Though Katerina isn’t the book’s focus, her absence looms large, informing Yuri and Anya’s every action. Meadows paints a poignant portrait of life behind the Iron Curtain, palpably conveying her vividly rendered characters’ deprivation, longing, and self-sacrifice. Fans of Megan Abbott’s You Will Know Me should take note. Agent: Elisabeth Weed, Book Group. (Nov.)