cover image Snow in May

Snow in May

Kseniya Melnik. Holt, $25 (288p) ISBN 978-1-62779-007-9

Melnik models her debut on J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories by creating nine slice-of-life portraits that introduce us to a series of interrelated characters living in Magdan, Russia. The protagonists live in different decades, vary in age, and each experience different trials—yet they all carry the soul of Magdan. The stories involve the KGB, Russian dance, witch doctors, unhealthy love, neglected children, and inescapable poverty. The thematic explorations of the collection are similarly far-ranging: the inner battle between desire and responsibility (“Love, Italian Style, or in Line for Bananas”); the tendency to over-idealize the past (“Closed Fracture”); the demons of addiction (“Strawberry Lipstick”); and the sacrifices required to love freely (“Our Upstairs Neighbor”) . Although each of the nine stories can stand on its own, they have a cumulative effect when read together. Melnik tackles tragic subject matter while dramatizing daily struggles, giving equal weight to both. With dry humor and detailed description, Melnik creates a historically enlightening time capsule of an unfamiliar world. (May)