The lives of four people intersect during the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution.
In February 2014, Ukrainian police fired into a crowd of protesters in Kyiv, killing more than 100 civilians who were demonstrating against the nation’s president, Viktor Yanukovych. While Yanukovych would eventually be removed from power, the massacre has been etched into the memories of people across Ukraine and the rest of Europe. The mass shootings, and the protests that preceded it, form the plot of Pickhart’s disquieting debut novel, which follows four people at the center of the demonstrations. There’s Katya, an American doctor treating wounded protesters at a Kyiv monastery; she’s left the U.S. after the death of her young child and the resulting decay of her marriage. She finds herself treating Aleksandr, a former KGB spy who plays piano for the protesters, haunted by his own past as a Soviet who participated in the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. Misha, an engineer still mourning the death of his wife, takes part in the protests along with an activist named Slava, his former lover–turned–sister figure: “She wasn’t his, he wasn’t hers, but they were together. For years now, a cobbled family.” As the violence in Kyiv worsens, the characters find their lives thrown into terrible disarray, with Katya’s thoughts returning to her late child and Slava falling in love with a lesbian filmmaker. The novel ends where it must, and Pickhart doesn’t pull any punches; this is an unremittingly dark novel, but it’s never exploitative. Pickhart employs an unusual structure, with switching points of view punctuated by a kind of Greek chorus courtesy of Kobzari, old Ukrainian singers who were killed by the Russian czar for singing in their own language. Innovative, emotionally resonant, and deeply affecting, this is a more-than-promising debut from a very talented writer.
An excellent debut from an author who's bursting with talent.