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Something Unbelievable by Maria Kuznetsova | Thoughts

     Published in: 2021   ||   Format: ebook   ||   Location: US, Ukraine, Russia

One line review: As Larissa shares her story of suffering, loss, and survival during her family's escape from the Nazis, her granddaughter Natasha wonders how she can revive her stagnant career. 

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆


The other day, I'd overheard Papa telling Mama that many of the younger men were practically begging to be sent to the front. At least at the front they would be given three substantial meals a day and would hardly be expected to work for twelve hours straight. And if they died, they would do so with honor in their hearts and food in their bellies.


New mother Natasha has lately been extremely tired. Taking care of a newborn can do that to you. Sometimes she looks at her life and wonders if her actress-life is in the past or if she can regain some of that glory. None of her auditions are panning out to good offers. To help get her mind off things, she asks her grandmother, Larissa, to share some of her war-time experiences. Larissa, in turn, isn't really looking forward to revisiting that dark period, but she'll do anything for Natasha, who she adores. While Natasha's parents settled in the US a long time ago, Larissa never left her home. Their occasional long-distance video calls are how they keep in touch. As Larissa begins her story of loss and survival during her family's escape from the Nazis, Natasha tries to figure out how to revive her stagnant career. 

I typically enjoy historical fiction that flips between the past and the present and this was no exception. Larissa makes for a very interesting character. She was always blunt, even as a kid and didn't care too much for making an impression. That was her beautiful sister, Polina - who drew eyes even when too young to be courting men. Larissa's story starts with her grandmother - a woman who married for money and comfort, and put her sons in an orphanage - an action that forever split the family. Years later, fearing the Nazis, Larissa's entire family moves to a far-away factory town, where they stay with the Orlov family. 

Life in their new town starts out relatively okay, but deteriorates rapidly. While survival remains forefront in everyone's mind, Larissa and Polina also enjoy romantic interest in the Orlov brothers, Misha and Bogdan. Tragedy isn't too far though, and they are constantly tested as they lose loved ones from within their group.

Something Unbelievable pulled me in right from the beginning. Natasha's struggles are universal in some ways - which new mother has not worried about her career or her ability to bring home the dough while also caring for an infant? And yet, in some ways, they are very specific to her - almost every audition opportunity she gets are of Russian prostitutes. She doesn't fault that though but does wish for better. In addition, it isn't easy slipping back into a job that relies on her figure, something that is changed by a pregnancy. On the other hand, Larissa was sometimes frustrating, but still understandable. She didn't get along with a lot of people. She didn't not either, but she made no attempts to be too friendly. She may have been married to someone who loved her, but that certainly didn't stop the countless affairs that followed. 

War time, is however, not a good time to judge people by, especially if they were the oppressed. And this is nicely represented in the book - how tragedy transformed many people - nice one day, uncaring the next. While I enjoyed all the insight into Larissa's past, I can't say I cared as much for Natasha's present. Natasha's story was too rushed and thus not as intriguing as her grandmother's. She did seem to make the same questionable choices as her grandmother in some cases. Somehow, I couldn't understand or appreciate either women's tendency to cheat (or attempt to) on their partners, and the surrounding characters' general acceptance of those betrayals (or at least a lack of strong disapproval). 

Something Unbelievable was a very fast and addicting read, even if a tad bit unbelievable in parts. I'm certainly eager to explore more of this author's works.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review. Something Unbelievable is now available for purchase at your favorite bookstore.