Her entry begins:
School’s in session again, so much of what I’m reading is as yet unpublished: my MFA students’ manuscripts. But I’m playing hooky right now with Ann Bauer’s The Forever Marriage, which came out in June. It’s an astute psychological depiction of a woman, recently widowed, who believes herself finally free of a stultifying marriage. Then she is diagnosed with breast cancer. Facing down her own mortality, she reexamines her marriage to a kind but socially awkward math genius and surprises herself with a depth of feeling she had not previously suspected. One of the things I’m really appreciating in this novel is that the protagonist is not yet another amiable heroine in a relentlessly uplifting story. There’s no pink bow. It’s better than that: Bauer’s taking the risk to give us a...[read on]About The Mirrored World, from the publisher:
The bestselling author of The Madonnas of Leningrad returns with a breathtaking novel of love, madness, and devotion set against the extravagant royal court of eighteenth-century St. Petersburg.Learn more about the book and author at Debra Dean's website and Facebook page.
Born to a Russian family of lower nobility, Xenia, an eccentric dreamer who cares little for social conventions, falls in love with Andrei, a charismatic soldier and singer in the Empress's Imperial choir. Though husband and wife adore each other, their happiness is overshadowed by the absurd demands of life at the royal court and by Xenia's growing obsession with having a child—a desperate need that is at last fulfilled with the birth of her daughter. But then a tragic vision comes true, and a shattered Xenia descends into grief, undergoing a profound transformation that alters the course of her life. Turning away from family and friends, she begins giving all her money and possessions to the poor. Then, one day, she mysteriously vanishes.
Years later, dressed in the tatters of her husband's military uniform and answering only to his name, Xenia is discovered tending the paupers of St. Petersburg's slums. Revered as a soothsayer and a blessed healer to the downtrodden, she is feared by the royal court and its new Empress, Catherine, who perceives her deeds as a rebuke to their lavish excesses. In this evocative and elegantly written tale, Dean reimagines the intriguing life of Xenia of St. Petersburg, a patron saint of her city and one of Russia's most mysterious and beloved holy figures. This is an exploration of the blessings of loyal friendship, the limits of reason, and the true costs of loving deeply.
Writers Read: Debra Dean.