Published by Harper Collins on 3/25/2014
Source: TLC Book Tours
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While Yevgeni, a nine year-old piano prodigy, struggles to evade bullies on the way to his music lessons in 1986 Moscow, his mother and aunt attempt to hold the family together with menial jobs they hoped to escape long ago. At the same time, disaster strikes the Chernobyl Power Plant in the Ukraine, causing locals like Artyom and his family to be relocated while doctors and officials are brought in from across the Soviet Union in an attempt to cover up the damage.
Each of the characters in All That Is Solid Melts Into Air is connected to Grigory, a Moscow surgeon chosen to lead medical operations in the wake of Chernobyl, but their ties are slowly revealed over the course of the novel. Through each of these characters, readers are shown not only different perspectives of the disaster, but also how the Soviet government dictated life in various ways.
“Most evenings Alina, her sister, asks her how her day was and she replies, “Unremarkable.” And they add up, those unremarkable days. Days that, when you look back on them, even two weeks later, retain not a single distinctive moment. And if she’s to admit the thing she fears most, it’s this: the stealthy accumulation of unremarkable months, the rows and stacks of nothing, the unfilled columns when she sits down to account for her life.”
Despite the dim, appropriately faded atmosphere that hangs overhead throughout the novel, there is a constant pace that pushes readers forward to the next page. Particularly in the section describing the disaster at the plant and the moments soon after, McKeon’s well researched and beautifully written details are endlessly fascinating. Those interested in history will find much to love in the story, but it is the combination of McKeon’s effortless writing and unforgettable characters that turn All That Is Solid Melts Into Air into a favorite.