Reviews for A Mountain of Crumbs

“…her exquisitely wrought, tender memoir of growing up in the Soviet Union…could be taught as a master class in memoir writing. … Gorokhova writes about her life with a novelist’s gift for threading motives around the heart of a story. … Each chapter distills a new revelation in poetic prose. …This moving memoir made me cry.”
The New York Times Book Review (full review)

[A Mountain of Crumbs] …is a stunning memoir: subtle, yet brimming with depth and detail. It leaves you wanting more.
The Daily Telegraph, UK (full review)

“It’s a rich tale of life behind the Iron Curtain.”
The Washington Post  ( full review )

“…extraordinarily vivid and affecting memoir of an ordinary Soviet family. …One of Gorokhova’s achievements is to recreate the everyday Soviet world in luminous tableaux, universal in their truthfulness.  …With pitch-perfect lyricism, tremendous power of recall, and disarming wit, Gorokhova shows us how the self-deception that went on inside individuals …was an extension of the system.”
The Guardian, UK  ( full review )

“A Mountain of Crumbs is written above all with an almost painful tenderness that brought a lump to my throat more than once…  Gorokhova’s memoir looks back with love at the lost world… Her prose brims with an elegiac emotion and sensuality which even Turgenev, in his own European exile, might have envied.”
The Spectator, UK ( full review )

“Gorokhova’s memoir of Cold War Leningrad recalls her life as a bright, hardworking schoolgirl who gets perfect marks and can recite Party-approved lines of Pushkin and Turgenev from memory.”
The New Yorker   (full review)

“Ms. Gorokhova’s book is …  endearing, a collection of well-sculptured memories about the deprivations and joys of her childhood in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). It’s a book about many things, notably class, politics, identity and sex, but one that circles around as often as not to the author’s rumbling stomach. It reminds you that the best food writing is frequently about scarcity, not abundance.”
The New York Times (full review)

“Gorokhova is a fine writer with a delicate, sensitive touch, whose voice is nonetheless fearless and clarion.  …gently delightful memoir.”
The Times of London

“The title of this deeply affecting memoir comes from a heartbreaking anecdote…  Gorokhova’s childhood … is recalled with spare, lyrical beauty and wry humor… Instant classic.”
More Magazine  (full review)

“Elena Gorokhova’s memoir, A Mountain of Crumbs (Simon & Schuster), vividly, devastatingly conveys what it was like growing up in the shabby disillusion of the Brezhnev-era Soviet Union—and also swooningly indulges the nostalgia for place and landscape that’s seemingly steeped into every Russian soul.”
Elle (full review)

“A Mountain of Crumbs is among 10 books to watch for in February, 2010. ”
O: The Oprah Magazine  (full review)

“Gorokhova is a lush and beautiful writer”
NPR: What We’re Reading  (full review)

“Gorokhova has clearly gone for the gold. The 20 episodes in A Mountain of Crumbs are extraordinarily rich in sensory and emotional detail and offer an engrossing portrait of a very lively,  intelligent girl coming of emotional and intellectual age in the post-Stalinist Soviet Union.”
BookPage Magazine  (full review)

“Gorokhova… revisits her suffocating childhood in postwar Russia,  unlocking those secrets in vivid, captivating prose.”
New Jersey Monthly (full review)

“Even if Elena Gorokhova weren’t such a gorgeous writer, her memoir, “A Mountain of Crumbs,” would be a terrific read.”
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune  (full review)

“With telling detail, and a winning balance of affection, insight and satiric bite, in “A Mountain of Crumbs” Gorokhova portrays her colorful family circle and a bleak, repressively bureaucratic society that crushed much of the innate vibrancy out of the Russian people.”
The Seattle Times  (full review)

“With a captivating, firsthand voice on the world that made her the Russian-American she is today, Gorokhova explains how she both came to terms with and escaped the life she was born into…”
The Daily Beast  (full review)

“It’s a mesmerizing story of an intelligent, adventurous, curious girl and a country with a rich past and lumbering social constraints, both finding the way to a new future.”
The Oregonian (full review)

“Three pages into this beautifully crafted memoir and you know that Gorokhova has always been a writer … But writing — the kind that envelops and transports you and every so often leaves you breathless — comes from someplace deeper, some innate love of words and some need (or compulsion) to paint pictures with them.”
The Bergen Record (full review)

“Gorokhova’s engaging, beautifully written memoir depicts her childhood in 1960s Leningrad and her restless dissatisfaction with life behind the Iron Curtain.”
The Cleveland Plain Dealer  (full review)

“Her spare lyricism delicately captures a vanished world.”
USA Today   (full review)

“A Mountain of Crumbs” is a straightforward account of Russia in the postwar decades, one that takes the reader confidently through the slow sinking of the Soviet ship.”
The Christian Science Monitor  (full review)

“With a gift of memory that allows her to conjure up an astonishing depth of detail, Gorokhova delivers an intimate view of half a century of life in the Soviet system, eerily complete in its horrid squalor, parasitic fear, and profoundly deep human friendships.”
Russian Life Magazine  (full review)

“Gorokhova has the reader in the palms of her hands…This compelling and unusual tale…is inherently captivating.”
The Miami Herald  (full review)

“…“A Mountain of Crumbs,” [Gorokhova’s]  first book, has been greeted with near-universal acclaim.”
The Star Ledger   (full review)

“How does a young Russian learn to write such exquisitely lyrical English?” ( full review )

Advance Praise

“The story of a young person of sparkling intelligence, full of curiosity about the world, struggling to grow and blossom under a duplicitous, censorious, and unremittingly mean-minded social system. Elena Gorokhova conveys all the ugliness of daily life in Soviet Russia, as well as its humiliations, but is awake to its strangled, submerged poetry too. An enthralling read.”
J. M. Coetzee, winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature

“Elena Gorokhova has written the Russian equivalent of Angela’s Ashes, an intimate story of growing up into young womanhood told with equal grace and humor. A Mountain of Crumbs is a touching autobiography as well as a study in the deprivations and hard-earned joys of life in a treacherous Soviet world.”
Billy Collins, former U.S. Poet Laureate

“What is it about A Mountain of Crumbs that makes it so damn readable? Is it the setting – the Soviet Union in the second half of the last century on the verge of disintegration? Is it the author’s way with the English language – her second language? Elena Gorokhova deftly moves us from the intimacies of family life to school, to university, to various bureaucracies with exposure along the way to ballet and theater. This is a rich experience – a personal journey paralleled by huge national changes and ending in a deeply satisfying portrait of peace in America. Those who have traveled from another place to America will find themselves in this rich memoir. Yes, rich is the word I’ve been groping for: Rich.”
Frank McCourt, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Angela’s Ashes

“A Mountain of Crumbs is an extraordinary memoir. Elena Gorokhova’s writing—gorgeous and evocative—is enriched by her connection to two languages, Russian and English. Brilliant and moving.”
Ursula Hegi, author of Stones from the River

“This is a diamond of a memoir. Elena Gorokhova captures the essence of a vanished world with a poet’s eye, taking the reader on an unforgettable journey, where every detail transcends the commonplace and every page bears witness to the deepest longings of the human heart. This memoir offers a rare glimpse of life in the former Soviet Union, and also of the universal search for love and autonomy that binds us all together, regardless of time and place.”
Carlos Eire, National Book Award-winning author of Waiting for Snow in Havana

“Almost painful in its authenticity, this hypnotically readable memoir has the sweep and power of a great Russian novel.”
Bruce Jay Friedman, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and author of A Father’s Kisses

“Elena Gorokhova has written an endearing, sensitive story of her early years in the USSR, giving a fascinating picture of everyday life during her county’s last decades of communism.  Her memoir is proof that the human spirit can triumph even in the most repressive of times.”
Edward Hower, author of The New Life Hotel and The Storms of May

“An honest, captivating story of a girl from a middle class Soviet family, growing into a young woman, searching for her identity and unable to find it – someone the author, in the words of Turgenev, calls one of the ‘irrelevant people.’  In the spirit of Dostoyevsky, it is also an endlessly Russian quest for self-redemption, the writer’s attempt to justify her decades-old decision to leave the country.  I advise you to read the book.  It will give you pleasure.”
Sergei Khrushchev, son of former Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev and senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University