It is hard to process that this is the debut work of an author. She has taken what is traditionally been a heavy involved subject, life in Russia and created a dirge to the Cold War era, embracing the “interminable stretch of a Russian winter” evoking the cold and dark weather and showing life in Eastern Europe as Dostoyevsky did. Her mind pictures are dramatic, each paragraph as if a postcard into the sole of her characters.
She takes the well-worn subject of Russia’s mastery of modern-day chess, creates a character steeped in the game, Aleksandr and shows us how someone of meager beginnings can build a protected empire through the country’s one-upmanship with America for personal gain and advance through the corrupt political system to mount a run at the presidency against Putin in a quixotic and valiant attempt.
Irina, an American student who was brought up playing chess with her father, and is now preparing to her life to Huntington’s disease, just as her father had done takes on her own impossible dream, and meet the chess-player that her father had sent letters to, and in a role of finding purpose in her life leaves everything behind to chase her lost cause.
Their paths tangle and mesh in the most highly improbable fashion and both help form a lasting impression on each other’s fate as well as Russia itself. An improbable tale of endurance and love that will guide the reader down a path of unrequited expectation.
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