Fedya soon finds himself in the company of a gang of petty thieves, struggling to make ends meet, while Elena and Irina are placed in separate orphanages, each facing their own daunting challenges. The echoes of their mother's dying words, "Stay together, Fedya. You must do everything you can to stay together," serve as a constant motivation for Fedya, propelling him to relentlessly search for their mother's brother, Uldis—who Fedya believes is his only hope of helping him reunite with his sisters. Conversely, in the orphanage, nine-year-old Elena is bullied by the other girls and discovers solace in the compassionate social worker Valentina Alexandrovna.
Brown’s personal connection to Russia—her adopted daughter grew up in St. Petersburg—grants her a unique perspective to capture the lives of the Lebedev siblings. What truly distinguishes Brown's narrative is her intricate portrayal of each sibling's voice—Fedya and Elena’s grave undertones are fitting, given their age and circumstances, while Irina, just four years old, is gifted with a more playful approach. Thankfully, the siblings’ journey ends on a hopeful note, and readers will be left wanting to know more of their story.
Takeaway: Heartrending story of orphaned siblings fighting to stay together in post-Soviet Russia.
Comparable Titles: Teri M. Brown’s Sunflowers Beneath the Snow, Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry’s The Orchard.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A