In 1914 Russia, as war with Germany looms and the Czar's army tightens its grip on the local Jewish community, Miri Abramov and her brilliant physicist brother, Vanya, are facing an impossible decision: to stay in Russia or go to America. As the eclipse that will change history darkens skies across Russia, not only the safety of Miri's own family but the future of science itself hangs in the balance.
Through graphic descriptions, Barenbaum brings into sharp focus the threats and assaults Jews endured under the tsarist regime ... Some elements of this setup seem unnecessarily convoluted, and at times the reader’s patience is strained as Barenbaum reiterates the novel’s premise. But as Miri boards her first train with Sasha and we begin the siblings’ harrowing parallel journeys, Barenbaum tightens the pressure and pace. We are with Miri and Vanya every step of the way, racing across Russia, leaping from train to train, and hurrying through short, tense chapters ... Some of the novel’s best writing is in descriptions of place ... She is equally deft at capturing dramatic events ... an epic adventure that spins through rich terrain; several engrossing love stories, including one between remarkable siblings; and a scientific intrigue that pits dark ambition against a passionate love of science ...the characters Barenbaum brings to life demonstrate resilience in the face of prejudice, steadfastness in the face of defeat, and the ability to love even when the world has cracked with hate.
Barenbaum’s debut focuses less on the science of Vanya’s quest in favor of Miri’s self-doubt about her surgical abilities and entanglements of the heart. The result is a romantic adventure with a neatly dovetailed ending that will appeal to fans of Kristin Hannah and Pam Jenoff.
Barenbaum deepens the narrative with strong secondary characters marked by competing desires, such as the passions of Russian soldier Sasha Petrov and the deviousness of Russian Kir, who is trying to steal intellectual property. Fans of Kristin Hannah will enjoy Barenbaum’s exhilarating tale.