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Collective Trauma

Reviewing A Train To Moscow by Elena Gorokhova

Russia has always fascinated me. Ever since seeing the cartoon, Anastasia at a young age I have had an insatiable curiosity towards the land that was once home to czars and communists. I have even spent about 10 hours in the Moscow airport while traveling to and from Belarus. Perhaps in peaceful times, I'll be able to make a more formal trip, but in the meantime, I can meet my needs with Russian literature. The tomes of greats like Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, and Bulgakov have a permanent home on my bookshelf between Hemingway and my Sherlock Holmes collections. The newest addition to this modest stack is A Train to Moscow by Elena Gorokhova.

My Review 4.5/5

I was taken by surprise with this book, which is scheduled for publication on March 1, 2022. The plot follows the life of a girl named Sasha (the Russian diminutive form of Alexandra) as she grows into adulthood while living behind the Iron Curtain after World War II. She is born just before the war's end into a broken family and a scarred nation. The damage done to her country by Nazi Germany and her country's own leaders have deep impacts on her and those around her, despite her never experiencing the horrors of war or pogroms herself. A Train to Moscow is about many things; growing into adulthood, discovering family secrets, young love, and broken hearts; but more than anything else, it is about the lasting effects collective trauma can have on many generations. Unfortunately, with today's current crisis in Ukraine, the world may still be experiencing the long-term impacts of the Soviet Union and the second great war.

The book itself is well written. The prose is beautiful, but not superfluous, and the characters are just as deep as winter snow in Siberia. Elena Gorokhova brings the reader into the life of her protagonist with incredible intimacy while simultaneously utilizing a 3rd person perspective. Because the story spans such a wide swath of time in Sasha's life, the reader can get to know her like an old friend or close relative.

A Train to Moscow also contains elements for every reader. For lovers of romance, there is the dramatic relationship between Sasha and her childhood friend Andrei. For fans of war fiction, excerpts from Sasha's uncle, Kolya's battle journal provide plenty of action. There's also the sub-plot of what happened to Kolya after the war to entertain readers of mystery. These components, and more, are woven together in a tapestry that envelops the story of the Russian people behind the curtain of communism. By focusing on the life of one young woman, Elena Gorokhova captures the struggle of a nation navigating innumerable post-traumatic injuries.

The story of Sasha in A Train to Moscow is also great. Even without the deeper themes the book offers a powerful story of resilience. I was truly amazed by how much ground the author managed to cover while telling a compelling story. This book is a masterpiece by an author deserving of the success she is currently experiencing, and I would recommend this book to almost every reader.


A Train to Moscow by Elena Gorokhova will be published on March 1, 2022, by Lake Union Publishing. You can pre-order your copy on Amazon.

Corey D. Evans received an advance reader's copy of this book and was not financially compensated for his review.

Please have the people of Ukraine in your prayers during this tumultuous time. If you are looking for a way to support individuals on the ground in this crisis you can consider donating here. Your funds will directly support missionaries providing food and shelter to Ukrainina refugees.

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