cover image A Bend in the Stars

A Bend in the Stars

Rachel Barenbaum. Grand Central, $27 (416p) ISBN 978-1-5387-4626-4

Set in 1914 Kovno, Russia, Barenbaum’s rousing debut follows two headstrong siblings striving to build their lives amid the fog and confusion of impending war. Jewish Miri Abramov and her fiancé, Yuri, both work as doctors, but Miri is often shunned (even by patients) in a society where a woman surgeon is so uncommon that some even believe she is a witch. Miri’s brother, Vanya, is a brilliant physicist bent on expanding and/or disproving Albert Einstein’s still unpublished theory of relativity. He believes that proof of his equations lies in the August 1914 solar eclipse, which locals see as an omen of the devil. Vanya hopes to photograph the celestial phenomenon to show that light, in fact, bends as day turns into night. He also hopes to sell a photograph to American scientists, thereby buying safe passage for him, Miri, and Yuri. But as WWI intensifies, Miri is called away to the front lines, and Vanya must risk being captured to complete his observations. Barenbaum deepens the narrative with strong secondary characters marked by competing desires, such as the passions of Russian soldier Sasha Petrov and the deviousness of Russian Kir, who is trying to steal intellectual property. Fans of Kristin Hannah will enjoy Barenbaum’s exhilarating tale. (May)