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Snow in May: Stories

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  593 ratings  ·  144 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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Average rating 3.49  · 
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 ·  593 ratings  ·  144 reviews

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Mar 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
‘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,
Kseniya Melnik
Apr 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
As the author, I've read this book one too many times, I'd say. I give myself 5 stars for the effort & for all those missed hours of TV watching. I seem to not have embarrassed my family too much with this book. Onward! ...more
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
Aug 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Hana by: Kinga
A collection of nine short stories, each linked in some way to Russia's far-eastern port city of Magadan on the Sea of Okhotsk. Magadan is a grey place where winter lasts for many long, dark months and temperatures hover near zero degrees Farenheit. Only one road leads into and out of this isolated land, and for much of the year it is only accessible by air or sea. Magadan is also a haunted place: during the Stalin years it served as the port for the GULAG network of prisons and labor camps and ...more
Diane S ☔
Jan 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 24, 2014 rated it really liked it

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

Althea Ann
Mar 03, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Feb 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
Nine short stories linked to remote fishing port of Magadan also the former gateway to Stalin labor camps.

Colorful characters, history revealed through fable and lore. Marriage, love, envy, all addressed in an affecting and sweeping manner. Wonderful collection.
Jan 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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:
May 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
May 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, 2014
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
Ksenia Anske
May 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book touched me so much. Maybe because I grew up in Russia as well. It was achingly beautiful and devastating. My favorite story The Uncatchable Avengers is still with me. I actually listened to a YouTube clip of the march composed by Tchaikovsky to "listen" to the story. Loved it. ...more
Jun 09, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

This book is a great insight into the lives of people from far east Russia. Most of the stories are set in Magadan. To be honest, I had never heard of this place before. The author is also from this small historic town, who migrated to Alaska in her teens. The stories seem to be inspired from her personal experiences. Most of the stories are nice but couple of them not so much. My favorites were "Love, Italian Style or in Line for Bananas" and "Our upstairs neighbor". Few stories end qu
Mark Landmann
Feb 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I'm not sure how it was that I heard about this book of stories set in Magadan, set in the far, far northeast of Russia, but I was excited to read it because I have a strange fascination with these truly remote but decently big Russian/Soviet cities. So I guess it's not a surprise that my favourite parts of the book were when the city and life there, in whatever time period, was described in detail. I was briefly embarrassed, reading other comments here, that I hadn't realized the stories were l ...more
Sep 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A rare glimpse into the lives of people connected to Magdan, one of the Gulag cities in the Far East of Russia. Interlinked stories, interlinked lives, sad, ordinary, and extraordinary and beautifully written about.
Highly recommended.
Fern Adams
May 11, 2021 rated it liked it
‘Snow in May’ is a collection of short stories all set in Magadan which is in Northeastern Siberia, Russia and became famous due to its gulags.

I’m not too sure what I thought of this book to be honest. I didn’t exactly like it but I didn’t dislike it either. In many ways each individual story was fairly mild in writing yet held strong undertones of turbulent lives of the characters. While there was no real plot the stories were individual character developments that often left the reader wonder
Dec 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
A book of short stories set in Magadan, a town in Siberia, former gateway to the Gulag.

This is a book of fiction, but the culture and lifestyle of communism and the former Soviet Union is deeply interwoven into each story, character and plot. The stories span decades in the 20th century (communism and post-communism) and provide a fascinating and valuable window into this part of the world. I'm fascinated by Russia and found the cultural aspects of these stories consistently interesting.

This is
Oct 16, 2020 rated it it was ok
These just left me kind of cold, they aren’t linked enough, there’s no twist in them and I just didn’t feel much for the characters, I doubt I will remember these for long apart from the dancing one and that was just icky.
Read in May 2021 (fittingly!) for ShelterBox Book Club.

Favourite stories (or ones that stood out most): - Love, Italian Style or in Line for Bananas
- Strawberry Lipstick
- Summer Medicine
Meghan Betts
May 16, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: did-not-finish
I'm not a fan of short stories in general, but for me these didn't go anywhere. They were more snippets of people's lives with no plot point, and no real link between them. I can see why people would like this book and the writing is good, but it's just not for me. ...more
Nathalie (keepreadingbooks)
Put together, these stories form the legacy of the Russian revolution and the Stalin era. They provide an intimate window, through which we can see how the legacy of a town’s role in history affects its citizens, generally and personally. How it lingers in the back of their minds, and how ghosts of its past haunt them on a daily basis.

But they also provide an intimate window into the lives of families and individuals in everyday interactions, going about their daily business, considering which
Jun 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Chris Blocker
Jun 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Rick Morrison
Mar 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Snow in May is a series of 9 linked short stories connected to Magadan before and after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In each story, we encounter characters, settings, and themes that reoccur in later stories. The stories move back and forth in time, allowing us to see what changes and what does not in this Far East city and those who are connected to it. While some characters do reoccur, we do not get the same point of view each time, allowing us to see different facets of the characters, r ...more
Jul 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Lolly K Dandeneau
Mar 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: new
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
Raven Haired Girl
Feb 07, 2015 added it
Shelves: 2015
Kseniya Melnik’s outstanding debut, Snow in May, visits Magadan, an isolated town in northern Russia serving as the gate to the most brutal Stalinist labor camps.

Nine linked stories with a varying cast touching upon topics as marriage, family, hope. History presented and evolved through many challenges the eclectic cast faced.

Melnik takes daily struggles peppered with humor, sensitivity and empathy as each vignette unfolds. She masterfully takes the reader by the hand waking you through the emot
Jan 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
Russia is dark and its people unhappy.
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Kseniya Melnik's debut book is the linked story collection Snow in May, which was short-listed for the International Dylan Thomas Prize and long-listed for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. It was published in the US and UK in 2014 and will come out in Japan in translation in 2017. Born in Magadan, Russia, Kseniya moved to Alaska in 1998, at the age of 15. She received her MFA fr ...more

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Everything felt wrong, like she was living in a parallel universe, separated by one crucial degree from the one containing the life she was meant to have. This other, true life was visible to her, even palpable at certain instances—like during the births of her sons—but impossible to occupy. She cried from pity for herself, and because of the stupidity of such pity. She cried for Luciano and for Anton. She cried because she’d only loved one boy with the follow-you-over-the-edge-of-the-earth kind of love—at fifteen. She cried for her mother, who had died two years ago, and whom she still missed every day.” 0 likes
“The smells of fried onions, pea soup, and fish fought for airspace.” 0 likes
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