FICTION

Invitation to a Bonfire

Bloomsbury USA. Jun. 2018. 256p. ISBN 9781635571523. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781635571516. F
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OrangeReviewStarIn the mid-1920s, 16-year-old orphaned refugee Zoya Andropova begins a new life at a posh East Coast boarding school, far from her Moscow roots. It is a rocky start, given fading memories of her parents and homeland and persistent bullying from mean classmates. After graduation, she puts her green thumb to use as the school's new manager of hothouse plants. Another addition to staff that semester is fellow Russian émigré Leo Orlov, arriving with his enigmatic wife, Vera. Leo happens to be Zoya's favorite author, and her excitement about his presence at the school soon sparks a relationship between them. But Vera proves to be a formidable complication, and twists and turns abound as Zoya must decide where her allegiances can intersect with her best chance at lasting happiness. Award-winning novelist (The Daughters)and cartoonist Celt (LoveAmongtheLampreys.com) blends an intricate and engrossing tale of a young woman's awakening sexuality with a look at the political realism of a young Soviet Union, the class and social conflicts of elite educational institutions, and a dash of horticulture.
VERDICT At once a taut psychological thriller and a sensitive character study; fans of each should rejoice.

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