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21 November 2018

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A Mountain of Crumbs

by Elena Gorokhova

A memoir must tread a fine line between getting personal enough to strike a chord in the reader, but not so intimate that the reader becomes bored by details only of interest to the writer and her family. Gorokhova skillfully traverses this line with grace, candor, and an engrossing narrative.

With a gift of memory that allows her to conjure up an astonishing depth of detail, Gorokhova delivers an intimate view of half a century of life in the Soviet system, eerily complete in its horrid squalor, parasitic fear, and profoundly deep human friendships.

Gorokhova leads the reader through her family’s history, beginning with her mother’s early sparrings with the Stalinist system and culminating with her own emigration from the Soviet Union in 1980 as a erstwhile bride of an American academic. Along the way we meet a profusion of characters so richly-drawn as to seem almost personally familiar to a frequent visitor to Russia. In short, A?Mountain of Crumbs is a fine memoir that reads like fiction but is all the more powerful because it is not.

— Paul E. Richardson

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Reviewed in Russian Life: May/June 2010