336 pages, 8.44 × 5.5 × 0.9 in
February 8, 2011
Simon & Schuster
The following ISBNs are associated with this title:
ISBN - 10: 1439125686
ISBN - 13: 9781439125687
About the Book
Elena Gorokhova grows up in 1960's Leningrad where she discovers that beauty and passion can be found in unexpected places in Soviet Russia.
Read from the Book
1. Ivanovo I WISH MY MOTHER HAD come from Leningrad, from the world of Pushkin and the tsars, of granite embankments and lace ironwork, of pearly domes buttressing the low sky. Leningrad’s sophistication would have infected her the moment she drew her first breath, and all the curved façades and stately bridges, marinated for more than two centuries in the city’s wet, salty air, would have left a permanent mark of refinement on her soul. But she didn’t. She came from the provincial town of Ivanovo in central Russia, where chickens lived in the kitchen and a pig squatted under the stairs, where streets were unpaved and houses made from wood. She came from where they lick plates. Born three years before Russia turned into the Soviet Union, my mother became a mirror image of my motherland: overbearing, protective, difficult to leave. Our house was the seat of the politburo, my mother its permanent chairman. She presided in our kitchen over a pot of borsch, a ladle in her hand, ordering us to eat in the same voice that made her anatomy students quiver. A survivor of the famine, Stalin’s terror, and the Great Patriotic War, she controlled and protected, ferociously. What had happened to her was not going to happen to us. She sheltered us from dangers, experience, and life itself by a tight embrace that left us innocent and gasping for air. She commandeered trips to our crumbling dacha—under the Baltic clouds, spitting rain—to plant, weed, pick, and preserve for the winter whate
From the Publisher
Elena Gorokhova’s A Mountain of Crumbs is the moving story of a Soviet girl who discovers the truths adults are hiding from her and the lies her homeland lives by.
Elena’s country is no longer the majestic Russia of literature or the tsars, but a nation struggling to retain its power and its pride. Born with a desire to explore the world beyond her borders, Elena finds her passion in the complexity of the English language—but in the Soviet Union of the 1960s such a passion verges on the subversive. Elena is controlled by the state the same way she is controlled by her mother, a mirror image of her motherland: overbearing, protective, difficult to leave. In the battle between a strong-willed daughter and her authoritarian mother, the daughter, in the end, must break free and leave in order to survive.
Through Elena’s captivating voice, we learn not only the stories of Russian family life in the second half of the twentieth century, but also the story of one rebellious citizen whose curiosity and determination finally transport her to a new world. It is an elegy to the lost country of childhood, where those who leave can never return.
From Our Editors
INDIGO RECOMMENDS: Frank McCourt knew a thing or two about how to tell a good life story. The author of Angela’s Ashes was also a teacher of a memoir workshop and in 2004 he encouraged a young Russian woman who was his student. He saw potential in a story that dramatizes the struggle of the individual against a repressive regime. With A Mountain of Crumbs, Elena Gorokhova fulfills McCourt’s faith in her.
As a young girl Elena was content with meeting her family’s expectations, but as she matured she discovered a love of language, art, history and poetry that opened her eyes to new worlds of possibility. For Elena the turning point came when she began to study English in school. Now a hunger for life beyond what had been prescribed for her and a friendship with one foreign student developed into a new life that would take her out of Russia.
This is a quiet story, none of it laboured. Like McCourt, Gorokhova is a master of the telling incident. Her prose is sensuous and evocative and her story reminds us how similar we are in our struggles and desires. A Mountain of Crumbs can easily take its place beside The Glass Castle and Prisoner of Tehran as a life story that will fascinate and inspire generations of readers.
“It takes talent to write a good memoir and Gorokhova has more than most. Fascinating anecdotes show us her mother’s youth, and her own recollections spring to life with an artist’s eye for those details that can conjure a mood or a moment. The privations, oppressions and joys are all described with shining curiosity in this captivating book.”
—Waterstone’s Books Quarterly