An overwhelmed new mom asks to hear her grandmother’s story of her family’s desperate escape from the Nazis, discovering unexpected parallels to her own life in America in this sharp, heartfelt novel.
Larissa is a stubborn, brutally honest woman in her eighties, tired of her home in Kiev, Ukraine—tired of everything in life, really, except for her beloved granddaughter, Natasha. Natasha is tired as well, but that’s because she just had a baby, and she’s struggling to balance her roles as a new mother, a wife, an actress (or she used to be one, anyway), and a host to her husband’s slacker best friend, Stas, who has been staying with them in their cramped one-bedroom apartment in upper Manhattan.
When Natasha asks Larissa to tell the story of her family’s Soviet wartime escape from the Nazis in Kiev, she reluctantly agrees. Perhaps Natasha is just looking for distraction from her own life, but Larissa is desperate to make her happy, even though telling the story makes her heart ache. Larissa recounts the nearly three-year period when she fled with her self-absorbed sister, parents, and grandmother to a factory town in the Ural Mountains where they faced starvation, a cholera outbreak, and a tragic suicide, and where she found herself torn in her affections for two brothers from a wealthy family. But neither Larissa nor Natasha can anticipate how loudly these lessons of the past will echo in their present moments.
Navigating between Larissa and Natasha’s perspectives, then and now, Something Unbelievable explores with piercing wit and tender feeling just how much our circumstances shape our lives and what we pass on to the younger generations, willingly or not.