Snow in May: Stories
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Snow in May: Stories

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  129 ratings  ·  48 reviews
Kseniya Melnik's Snow in May introduces a cast of characters bound by their relationship to the port town of Magadan in Russia's Far East, a former gateway for prisoners assigned to Stalin’s forced-labor camps. Comprised of a surprising mix of newly minted professionals, ex-prisoners, intellectuals, musicians, and faithful Party workers, the community is vibrant and resili...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published May 13th 2014 by Henry Holt and Co.
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‘Snow In May’ was a special book for me. Those stories of a far east Siberian town resonated with me on many levels. There is a common ground, some shared experience of all those who lived in the Soviet Bloc during communism. It’s quite amazing how the themes and tropes would repeat itself thousands of miles away from Warsaw, somewhere at the end of the world. And yet, the world behind the Iron Curtain was a unique experience, difficult to explain to outsiders but wordlessly recognizable to anyo...more
Welcome to Magadan, Russia.


(Sarah Palin can see this from her house!)

Though I had a real problem connecting with the last two stories in the book, most of these tales of life in a cold climate were wonderful. Melnik explores universal topics like marriage, birth, divorce, death, love, hope, hatred and envy, while also touching on aspects of culture that are peculiar to Mother Russia.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first story in the collection, Love Italian Style, or In Line for Bananas. Set in 1975,...more
Rebecca Foster
In brief: A collection of nine linked short stories about family, music, medicine, and the legacy of Stalinist oppression. Most are set in the northeastern Russian town of Magadan, though America often provides a useful counterbalance. Several stories focus on three female generations of one family, and it is a pleasure to spot the threads joining the narratives. Russian music, proverbs, and foodstuffs abound, and you can feel the bleak cold. Meanwhile, the theme of finding happiness by carving...more

Thank you to Henry Holt and Co. for letting me read this book in digital format.

"Kseniya Melnik’s beautiful Snow in May is an education in how history is routed, refracted, and reconciled inside the human heart. In sonorous, evocative prose, the triumphs and tragedies of Magadan are vividly brought to life. In 1890, Chekhov traveled to the Russian Far East—had he made the journey a century later, and gone a little farther north, these stories may well have been the result."—Anthony Marra

I’m not always one for short fiction but I was mostly enchanted by the beautiful writing, moving characters, and fascinating almost other-world setting of these linked stories. Magadan is in a frigid far-flung eastern corner of the Soviet Union/Russia, not so far from Alaska, and while it was made notorious by its connection to Stalin’s forced-labor camps afterward it became home to an eclectic mix of artists, professionals, faith healing witches, ex-prisoners, musicians, intellectuals, and Part...more
Althea Ann
Not so much a collection of short stories as an assemblage of linked events.
Each segment is preceded simply by the year in which it takes place. All are about people in or from Magadan, a harsh, cold and bleak city, former site of Stalin's gulags. Each story feels like a glimpse into the past of a relative - indeed, many of them are presented as someone telling of their past experiences. The characters we gain these visions of are all connected; related - although it's not always immediately obv...more
There are quite a few stereotypes floating around Russia and its people. Most times, this is a cartoon version of reality and there is more than meets the eye. Kseniya Melnik debuts with a collection of Russian-themed short stories which go beyond these images in, “Snow in May”.

“Snow in May” amasses a variety of stories based mostly in the city of Magadan (“closer to Alaska than any other Russian city”). These stories portray various characters, settings, and times during the twentieth century:...more
Diane S.
A novel of linked, though at times the link is subtle, stories set in the Russian town of Magadan. Magadan is the city that was the gateway for the Gulags, Stalin's notorious inhumane labor camps. The stories weave through the last part of the twentieth century. The settings are vivid and the sense of character is tangible.

The tone is very bleak, but the sense of place and time is outstanding.
We can follow the characters thought the changing fates of the town and its people. Even those characte...more
Literature is a wonderful vehicle for enlightenment: broadening our minds, expanding our hearts, opening our eyes to cultures, nationalities, world views, ideologies, experiences, belief systems, lands and regions that otherwise would be unknown to us. The more diversified one chooses to read, the more compassionately knowledgeable one chooses to grow. And the more expressively enriched the writing, the richer the enlightenment and growth.

Kseniya Melnik took me on an enlightening journey through...more
В мировой литературе существует немало примеров того, как достаточно успешные поэты или писатели, по разным причинам покинув страну, в которой они родились и выросли, добиваются известности и признания их таланта на новой родине. История России, к большому сожалению, особенно богата такими примерами. Существует даже специальный термин – «литература русского зарубежья», подразумевающий трагедию огромного исторического периода длиной в почти сто лет и объединяющий три волны русской эмиграции. Уезж...more
Chris Blocker
The matryoshka doll on the cover is perfect for Kseniya Melnik's Snow in May. Like all short story collections I've had the pleasure to read, the stories are not equally weighted. There are some I love and some I think are only okay. In Snow in May, the best stories are found at the middle, nested between the rest, waiting to be found and bring joy to the one who loosened their casing.

The opening stories didn't impress me. The problem, I felt, was that the narrative style was much too summarizin...more
Lolly LKH
Reading about the woman standing in line for everything made me feel incredibly worn out and appreciative that I don't have to do the same. Snow in May is about several people living in Magadan, Russia from 1950 to current day. Magadan used to be a transit center for Russian prisoners sent to Stalin prison camps. I don't know a lot about the GULAG times but prisons were certainly not a comfy place. You can imagine how that mixture of people made Magadan into what it was. People expecting a happy...more
Kseniya Melnik’s short story collection, Snow in May is a poignant debut about family, hardships, the arts, and tradition. The stories offer a glimpse into the lives of an interesting mix of characters from varying circumstances all connected with the remote Russian town of Magadan. I’m a bit ignorant when it comes to Russian lit and culture so this is collection was an informative introduction to its people during and after the fall of the USSR. All nine stories are truly works of art, but I pa...more
Kseniya Melnik was born in Magadan and lived there before emigrating to Alaska when she was 15. The fact that she has first-hand knowledge of this isolated town in Russia’s Far East, a town for ever associated with the Gulag, is very evident in this collection of linked short stories, most of which are set there. With compassion and understanding she tells of ordinary people doing their best in often bleak circumstances. With the legacy of the Stalinist era still looming over many of the lives d...more
Tell Me More: Distance is a familiar motif to anyone who has left the country of their birth. But whatever distance leaves in shadow, it also brings new perspectives to light. Kseniya Melnik writes of her birthplace, Magadan, with perspective and a fresh new gravity in these nine short stories.

It’s hard to write about a place that lives in memories. In Melnik’s hands, Magadan is a vibrant place with unique characteristics and characters. Each piece of the setting seems to complement its respecti...more
There is no disputing that this author knows how to set a scene, or that Kseniya Melnik is a talented writer. She has a way of captivating the senses of the reader with her descriptions of human action and her ability to make each scene feel like the most important one in the book.

This collection of interlinking stories was not quite what I expected. This wasn't a bad thing, I just didn't know that each of the stories would affect the next, so it was kind of like looking at a family history or a...more
I received a review copy of this book. This collection of short stories are situated in Magadan, a remote northeastern corner of Russia, famed more for the gulags located there than for the normal life of its residents. But these stories are not about the gulag, or only tangentially, for some people who came as prisoners stayed to build a life here. Characters and situations lightly reappear among the stories. The author moved from this area to America as a teenager. She indicates the year of th...more
Snow in May is a collection of short stories mostly set in the Siberian town of Magadan, a place famous for being home to one of Stalin's gulags. Many of the stories have characters in common, but not all of them. What they do all have in common is a spirit of survival and even triumph in the face of the trials and hardships of living in Soviet Russia, whether it be standing in line for hours for rotten bananas or being imprisoned for supposedly being a Japanese spy. Though they aren't living li...more
I received this book as an ARC from a Library Thing Early Reviewers giveaway.

Most of the nine stories in this collection are set in the port town of Magadan in the far east of Russia. The others are about people who have a connection to the town. The stories cover a wide time range including soviet and post-Soviet years. The earliest is set in 1958, the latest in 2012. During the Soviet era the town was a gulag portal and many of the people in these stories have connections to that era.

The chara...more
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book takes the reader back and forth in time in Soviet Russia. At times, it can feel almost stereotypical in all the notes it hits. There are breadlines, poverty, the smell of cabbage, ballarinas. The author even describes something as "cucumber green, omelet yellow, and beet purple." Yes, those are all foods that Russians eat.

This might have worked better as a novel instead of a bunch of loosely linked short st...more
Snow in May is a lovely collection of short stories of Russia. This book is filled with love, life, loss, surviving, and innocence.The location for these stories being in Russia was great. It added depth to the stories. While, I thought they were all good, there were some that I enjoyed better than others. For example: Love, Italian style, or in line for bananas. Strawberry lipstick, Rumba, Summer Medicine, and Our upstairs neighbor. I connected more with the people in these stories and their st...more

Actually 4.5/5

Having a tendency towards enjoying Russian literature I was thrilled to receive a copy of Kseniya Melnik’s Snow In May. While Melnik no longer lives in Magadan, a city well known as the gateway to Stalin’s forced labor camps, her short stories all take place in Magadan. Snow in May is an exceptional look into one town during various time periods in history and into very different lives. Melnik’s stories are beautiful, tender, sad, funny, and deeply moving. I enjoyed Snow in May imm...more
--Won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway!

Let me first say that I love these collection of stories. However, I believe the work a bit difficult to read through. Snow in May, truly suffers in readability with it's use of large, complex words. Don't get me wrong, every work needs to have a variety in vocabulary and I'm not afraid to pickup a dictionary. But, I am stopping every other paragraph to define words that could have easily (and more efficiently) been replaced by simpler and equally well-ver...more
Stephen Salter
I truly enjoyed this read. I found her writing style refreshing and genuine in today's culture of sound bites and selfies. I am not familiar with this part of Russia, but I came away from the book caring about the fictional characters and feeling the complexity of the region and its culture, geography, politics and circumstances. I looked forward to reading before sleep (and visiting Russia for a bit in my imagination) and was disappointed when the book ended as I could have continued on with st...more
I need old folktale
I received this as a Goodreads First Read book. I enjoyed the descriptive highlights of Magadan. Melnik brings the reader to her hometown through her prose while offering a touch of what life was like for the average person during the changing eras. My favorite was the coming of age story, Strawberry Lipstick. Oyla dreams of being married so she can wear lipstick just as girls in every country wish to grow up enough to wear makeup, or their grandmother's ring or to move away from home. Snow in M...more
Rating: 4 1/2 stars.

An unforgettable novel that illustrates the struggles between a city, with an infamous reputation, and it's people. Melnik's portrayal falls just short of flawless. Her writing is rich and evocative, and provides the reader with a tangible sense of landscape and characters. There is depth and grace to the narrative that reveals keen insight well beyond the author's years. The result is a moving collection of short stories that captures the soul of its people, and the healing...more
This debut collection of short stories was engrossing! Each protagonist is linked in some manner to the city of Magadan in Russia, gateway to the Gulag, and also the author's home until age 15. Each story was a poignant portrait of a life of yearning, a life of dreams fulfilled or not, and seemed to somehow give a sense of dipping one's toe in the water of someone else's life. I was left with wonderment at the amount of time in any lifetime spent yearning.
Disclaimer: I won this book through Goodreads.

One of my favorite short story collections is a selection of stories set in the same region over more than 100 years. Sharing the stories in non-chronological order exemplifies just how complex a person's relationship to their hometown can be. Snow in May is a similar format, vividly painting a picture of the family histories, personal choices, and institutional forces that have shaped the town of Magadan over the years. The intertwining of the stori...more
Mary King
Melnik takes small moments and commits to rendering them so wonderfully that suddenly a world that seemed foreign-- places full of witch doctors and medical doctors, of waiting on line for bananas, partying in Crimea, eagerly anticipating the concert of a famous tenor or anxiously avoiding a piano recital-- become universally human. A truly lovely read.
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Kseniya Melnik was born in Magadan, in the northeast of Russia, and immigrated to Alaska at age fifteen. Her work has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Epoch, Prospect (UK), Virginia Quarterly Review, and, in 2010, was selected for Granta Magazine's New Voices series. She currently lives in El Paso, Texas.
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