A Mountain of Crumbs
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.
Author Elena Gorokhova: Historical Figure
Read an Excerpt
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... see more
Reading Group Guide
Soviet Russia of the 1960s and 1970s, where Elena Gorokhova grows up, is a bleak, disillusioned world, a land that promises everything but delivers little. How do you preserve the spark of enchantment amid the mandatory courses in scientific communism and banners proclaiming “We thank the party for the people’s welfare” above lines for toilet paper? Elena searches for the magic missing in her life and finds it in the English language— a passion that in the Soviet Union verges on the subversive.
Controlled by the state the same way she is controlled by her mother, Elena learns early to play the national game of pretending. “They pretend to pay us,” says her older sister, summing up Soviet life, “and we pretend to work.” Her mother, born eight years before Russia turned into the Soviet Union, is a mirror image of her see more