A Bend in the Stars

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 17 May 2019

Member Reviews

While most people are aware of the Holocaust with six million Jews slaughtered by Hitler and his Nazi regime, less is known about the persecution of Russian Jews during WWI. A Bend in the Stars is a heartbreaking, yet stunningly beautiful story about one family's desperate escape from the czar and his killer army. Miri and her brother Vanya are living in Russia with their Baba (grandmother) after the death of their parents, who were traveling to America when their boat sank. Miri is a surgeon-one of the very few females to hold this position- and Vanya is a mathematics professor. Vanya is obsessed with Einstein's Theory of Relativity-specifically a flaw Vanya sees in Einstein's logic. To support his own ideas Vanya has spent countless hours reworking equations, but needs a photo of the eclipse of 1914 to verify his theory. To get this photo Vanya must travel across Russia while dodging the "conscription" (draft) order for Jews. Helping Vanya is Yuri, Miri's fiance, also a surgeon. Miri and Baba plan to meet Vanya and Yuri after the eclipse to make their own trek to America, but the czar's men always seem to be one step ahead. There's duplicity and bribes, terrifying near misses with the army, and brutal weather to contend with on their passage. Along the way Miri meets Sasha and she is drawn to the mysterious stranger immediately, despite her impending nuptials. Here A Bend in the Stars could have become a sappy romance novel, but first time author Rachel Barenbaum strikes the perfect balance between love story and suspense. There's a lot to absorb in the plot-if math was not your best subject now might be a good time for a refresher course-and with places and events that may be unfamiliar to some American readers, following along can be a little intimidating, but don't let that put you off. You'll be rewarded with a riveting story of tremendous bravery by ordinary people faced with extraordinary circumstances, and a tender awakening in Miri that speaks to the unstoppable power of love. A Bend in the Stars is worth every second you spend in its pages-it will tug at your heart and stay there long after you put it down.
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Lovely book that celebrates love, family, and the determination and passion to make a difference despite the odds.
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Slow to start, but ultimately a compelling and illuminating historical fiction read! A Bend in the Stars by Rachel Barenbaum has a unique setting, as it’s set during the outbreak of WWI in what was then Russia. The book starts out in Kovno (Kaunas, Lithuania) and some characters travel to Riga (Latvia), while others travel to the Kiev/Brovary (Ukraine) area.
I found the historical setting to be absolutely fascinating. Our main characters are all Jewish, so there was a focus on the treatment of Jews in this area during this time, and so there were mentions of various pogroms (the babushka was a survivor of one of the Odessa pogroms) and such. Many of these scenes were difficult to read, as reading about so much hatred and what humans are capable of doing to each other is so tough.
The main characters are brother and sister Vanya the physicist and Miri the surgeon, Miri’s fiancé Yuri, another surgeon, and Sasha, a soldier running from something. We also meet Vanya and Miri’s babushka, whom I don’t recall ever actually reading what her name was! Their babushka is the local matchmaker, and she was such a tough, strong character. I really loved her! As I previously mentioned she survived an Odessa pogrom, and teaches her survival skills to her grandchildren. Vanya and Miri were both strong and competent characters. Vanya is trying to beat Einstein to some formulas to prove relativity, and is also trying to meet up with an American photographer to capture photographs of the upcoming eclipse. Miri has just attained surgeon status at the local Jewish hospital, a well-known hospital, and is devoted to her job. Her fiancé, Yuri, is her mentor, and he’s got an interesting backstory as he hails from Zhytomyr (Ukraine), and we discover more about him as the book goes along.
Yuri and Vanya head to Riga to meet up with the American photographer, and Miri encounters Sasha as he’s deserting, and they end up escaping to Kiev. A Bend in the Stars follows both sets of characters, alternating chapters between their stories. I found Miri and Sasha’s plotline much more interesting than Yuri and Vanya’s. Yuri and Vanya’s just had more physics and wandering around that didn’t interest me, and they also meet up with a sea captain named Dima, who, at the beginning, is one of those untrustworthy characters that as a reader we can see right through, but our characters do not. Towards the end, as Yuri, Vanya, and Dima’s plotline got more fast-paced and dramatic, I was glued to the page and concerned for all of their safety!
There is a love triangle here, with Miri and Sasha falling in love while they travel, but Miri is also very much engaged to Yuri, and this was a love triangle that didn’t irritate me. Both men are kind and loving in their own way, and I believed Miri’s indecision and dilemma. Miri and Sasha have undeniable chemistry, while Miri and Yuri have a love of medicine and respect for each other.
While the first half of the book was slow with all the set up, learning about Vanya’s formulas and how the eclipse will help, and meeting all the characters, once the plot got rolling I couldn’t put the book down! The ending was full of drama and love with some disturbingly violent scenes, and I was riveted. While I didn’t understand all the physics of what Vanya was working towards, I still enjoyed this read and recommend it for those who enjoy reading historical fiction!
Bottom Line: Slow to start, but a strong ending!
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For some reason I had trouble downloading this book-sorry for the lack of feedback! I'm not sure what happened.
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This is one of my most anticipated historical reads of the season! Russian history fascinates me, and A Bend in the Stars is steeped with factual events. The solar eclipse of 1914 and the race to determine the equation for Einstein's theory of relativity in the midst of WWI makes for a heart-stopping read. 

This book is a testament to the many types of love: the love of country, the love of medicine, math and education, the love between two siblings who only have each other and their legendary "babushka," and the epic love of the first female surgeon in Russia to her contemporary.

Loved it!
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A complex epic of Russia, siblings and science. Historical fiction fans will surely enjoy this book.

Thanks to NetGalley for letting me read this book.
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A rich, stunning, heartbreaking debut grounded in history. The science blew my mind and the love story broke my heart.
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I was provided with a digital ARC of this book thanks to NetGalley and the publishing house, Grand Central Publishing, in exchange for an honest review. 

I really enjoyed this story! I don't think I've read a lot of books set in WWI, especially set in Russia. I feel like Russia has been making quite the appearance in literature lately, and I'm here for it. I love picking up historical fiction books that expand my curiosity about a topic. This was more than war...it was love, heartbreak, family, science, religion, social/gender relations, and more. I'm not sure about how historically accurate certain things were, but I think it's worth doing a little of my own research about the "race" depicted in this book! Fantastic debut novel.
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In A Bend In The Stars Rachel Barenbaum takes the reader on quite a journey.  She tackles so many topics and issues and handles them all so well.  We are immersersee in the importance and pull of family, love, the race to a solar eclipse, persecution of Jews, difficulties of women breaking through career obstacles, and more, all while enduring the many difficulties in time of war.  A Bend In The Stars is an adventure worth undertaking.  I will definitely recommend this book to my book clubs.
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*4.25*

"A Bend In The Stars" has granted its place as one of my favourite historical fiction books every. 
It follows te story of Vanya and Miri, two siblings living in Russia on the verge of the First World War. Vanya is a mathematician, and he's "in competition" with Einstein for the equation about relativity. Miri is one of the first female surgeons in Russia.

I really enjoyed this read. I've never read an historical fiction book set in Russia. I tend to see that a lot of books set during the wars tend to prefer Germany or France as the main setting. I love how new and refreshing that was. Russia was very well described, you could feel the cold in your bones. 
I also particularly enjoyed the Vanya's storyline. I wouldn't have expected a fictional character competing with Einstein himself, even from far apart. I'm not into math or science in any means, but I rooted for Vanya and his equation until the end. 
The love story in this book was OVER THE TOP. My favourite character in the all book was definitely Sasha, and for this reason I think I invested a lot in the romantic relationship between two characters whom I will not name because of spoilers. But I was so invested in that relationship, they're a major part why I loved this book so much. All of the love scenes were tender and sweet, and this is something you don't usually see in historical fictions set during the war.
Also the family dynamics in this book were excellent. The family bond between the two main characters was so strong they literally travelled the world for each other.
And can we talk about the plot twist? It was really amazing, and I didn't see it coming. I cried and I suffered and I was happy. Basically this book was a rollercoaster of emotions for me.
I cannot actually believe this was Barenbaum's debut novel. Her writing style is really amazing and fluent, I really couldn't put the book down, I read it every moment possible.
Highly recommed this read, I haven't read a historical fiction book this good in a while.
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This is a book about two siblings in Russia. It is a beautifully written book. I would recommend it to fans of historical  fiction.. 


I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book free of charge. This is my honest and unbiased opinion of it.
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I do usually go for war fiction but Rachel Barenbaum created an epic story that swept me in from the beginning. Miri and Vanya stories were so emotionally complex that I lost all sense of time while reading.
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Ohhhh my goodness! Rachel Barenbaum has really blown me away with her debut novel A Bend in the Stars!!  

This novel starts in Russia in 1914 and centers around the Abramov sibling, Miri and Vanya.  The two lost their parents when they were younger and have been raised by their grandmother.  Miri is kind of unicorn of sorts for that time and age, she’s a skilled and educated surgeon (which wasn’t common for females).  Vanya is a brilliant physicist who is consumed with perfecting Einstein’s theory of relativity. The family, along with Miri’s fiancé see the writing on the wall for Jewish families like themselves and feel their best bet is to flee to America.  Unfortunately, the group gets split-up before any concrete plans were made! They now must rely on their instincts, faith and commitment to guide them back to one another. 

This novel has some of the best character development I’ve read in a long time!  I found every single character had a ton of depth and were also very realistic!  Rachel Barenbaum does a fantastic job with building an entertaining storyline with a ton of intricate moving parts.  I enjoyed how this fast paced novel covered so many genres—there is definitely something for everyone.  A Bend in the Stars is a solid 5 star novel that will consume you!  I will be keeping Rachel Barenbaum on my radar and I’m already looking forward to reading whatever she comes out with next!
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This was quite good. I found it ran a bit longer than necessary and then right at the end it got rushed. But overall, I really enjoyed Miri and Vanya's journeys.
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Thank you to @netgalley for my free review copy.
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A Bend in the Stars is a epic historical fictional novel set in Russia at the cusp of WWI. Although truthfully, It has so much more complexity that. It’s smart, and heartfelt and at a lot of times heartbreaking. 
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This tale is sweeping and complex, and I took my time with it because, I think it’s one of those stories that engrosses you so much, that you can’t help but put it down and think for a little while. 
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It was refreshing to read a smart, science driven historical fiction novel. I loved that about this story. I think this story will stick with me for a long time. 
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If you love science, history, Russian history, romance, survival stories, and or family sagas, give this one a go. 
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A wonderfully written Russian historical fiction, set in midst of WWI. It is also scientifically accurate, inspired by a solar eclipse and Einstein's theory of relativity. It is not an easy book to read, but most worthwhile.
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Wow. If you like smart historical fiction with bracing adventure, this one is for you. A Bend in the Stars will take you to places you’ve never seen and introduce you to characters with their backs up against a history you may not know. Russia on the verge of WWI – the sparkling cities, the frozen steppe, the ramshackle ghettoes, the universities and hospitals – it’s all here, as seen through the eyes of a Jewish sister and brother struggling to make their mark in a society that considers them, at best, to be useful. At worst – I don’t have to tell you. Vanya, the brother, is a brilliant physicist on the cusp of a discovery that will out-Einstein even Einstein; he is desperate to prove his theory, but that will involve traveling incognito across Russia, pursued by soldiers and rivals, to photograph the solar eclipse. Miri, his sister, is a newly-trained surgeon who has to fight for her right to do medicine. I don’t want to give away too much – but she, too, will traverse Russia, in the company of a dashing soldier who is not her fiancé. Think:  Doctor Zhivago meets Casablanca. Love and ambition and family set against the backdrop of looming war. I loved this novel, for its characters and story, but also because it let me experience what life was like for scholarly, talented Jews in Russia, in a time and place that I’d never seen on the page. The history will come alive for you and never let you go.
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I love "A Bend in the Stars" so much,  Rachel Barenbaum’s debut book is so well-written, blended with Russia history and beautiful emotions. This exquisite novel will make you read again and truly deserve more than 5 stars. Definitely reading for fan of historical-fiction. Thanh you so much to Grand Central Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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A rich, wonderfully textured and poignant read, with gorgeously rendered characters.  A rare look at a time and place, with an ambitious sweep--recommended for anyone who loved DR ZHIVAGO.
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I read this beautifully-crafted, intelligent novel in one weekend, consumed by Miri’s courage, Vanya’s ambition, the twists of loyalty and sacrifice, the sting of betrayal, the wrenching pain of star-crossed love. In thrilling detail, Barenbaum takes readers on a journey that is both quest and cat-and-mouse game, crisscrossing 1914 Russia by foot and rail with danger at every turn, as Vanya races to the center line of a total eclipse in search of scientific proof among the stars of gravity’s effect on light and Miri pursues her dream of being a surgeon while struggling to reunite her family. A Bend In The Stars is smart, moving historical fiction.
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