A Bend in the Stars

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 17 May 2019

Member Reviews

War, love, and science make this a page turner! The plot moves swiftly against the many Russian landscapes across this vast country--grimy cities, country villages, hospitals, railroad cars. The main characters, who are primarily Jewish, are well developed, each with aspirations, challenges, conflicts, and a few dark secrets. The mood is colored with the approach of WWII, deadly anti-Semiticism, the need to pay "protectors", the Czar's ruthless secret service, and scientific jealousies. Although the August 21, 1914 eclipse and the arguments against Einstein's formula are historical accurate, the characters and their race to photograph the eclipse, and rendezvous to escape Russia before the borders are closed, is fictional. This is a book to be read over and over again.
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Russia, in 1914 was heading into the Great War, and Jewish Russian Miri Abramov, who is a doctor, and her brother Vanya, a physicist/university professor, fear for their lives as the Czar’s army is conscripting Jews for the war, regardless of their status. Vanya is on the verge of finding the mathematical equation for the Theory of Relativity, in a race with physicists around the world. As an eclipse approaches, Vanya knows that with the correct equation and photographic proof during the eclipse, he could save his family from the terror in Russia, be able to travel to America and be accepted at Harvard University. Can he do it, before the army finds him?

I was spell-bound by this riveting tale of life in Russia over a hundred years ago. A saga of family, love and perseverance had me turning pages quickly, both not wanting the book to end, and wanting to know the ending! It was very well written and I highly recommend this book
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A good historical fiction book, albeit a bit long. I'm always on the lookout for historical novels that don't take place in WWII. A Bend in the Stars fits that bill. Taking place in 1914, we follow Miri as she tries to find her brother and fiance all the while dealing with the start of WWI.
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I thoroughly enjoyed reading A Bend in the Stars. As someone who loves historical fiction, I find myself primarily reading books about WWII in Western Europe - this book was a refreshing change of pace, being set at the start of WWI in Russia. Jewish siblings Vanya and Miri face impossible odds when trying to escape Russia to America, by solving equations about relativity. I am in no way a science person, but I was fascinated by Vanya's race for relativity and the information about Einstein. This book could be gruesome at times, as most dealing with the poor treatment of Jews are. I loved the resilience of the characters and their strength in horrendous situations. 

My only complaints:
1. It started a little slow - I think this was important to the build up of the story, but it did make it a little tough to get in to.
2. The ending chapter seemed a little unnecessary. I wanted to know what happened to the characters in the future, but I didn't love how that was handled.

My review was posted to my instagram page: www.instagram.com/readingandsunshine
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This book has a really strong premise and dimensional, relatable characters.  However, I felt like it was unnecessarily lengthy.  I was really engaged in the story, and halfway through it suddenly felt like it really bogged down.  I read just over 75% of the book before I finally lost interest and sat it aside. I think they author could have cut it down quite a bit and had a much more impactful novel!  Still, if you are interested in this period of history, it was a very unique perspective that I enjoyed reading more about!
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A Bend in the Stars by Rachel Barenbaum is so well research and beautifully written. You are transported back to WWI Russia. The emotional portrayal of the Jewish plight is detailed to break your heart and then give you strength.
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I have always been drawn to war-time stories. Why? I do not know, but what I DO know is that Rachel Barenbaum has penned one of the most beautiful novels I have had the pleasure of reading. She crafted this book with such care. Giving an authentic voice to the characters along with such an intelligent plotline. The book made my heart both race and ache. It gave me a fresh view on an era that I didn't know much about. Seeing it through the perspective of the characters was such a riveting reading experience. I am in complete shock that this is Rachel Barenbaum's debut. Her storytelling and world-building is something that even the most seasoned of writers try to achieve. I would not be surprised that we see this sitting along side the literary classics years from now. It has earned it's spot! I highly... HIGHLY recommend you add this book to your library.
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When the book description indicates Russia, Jews, and World War I, I'm sold. However, A Bend in the Stars has so much more to the story. 

While set in Russia just before and during the early part of World War I and happening to have main characters who are Russian Jews, A Bend in the Stars centers on the eclipse that occurred in Russia on August 21, 1914 and a race to come up with the mathematical equation to prove the Theory of Relativity.  This race to be in the right place at the right time and to obtain the photographs thought to be needed to prove the theory is hampered by the obstacles the main characters experience due to their religion and the war. Roadblock after roadblock stands in their way to achieving their goals. In addition to the scientific race, there is also a romance thrown in as well.  

A Bend in the Stars is the first novel by Rachel Barenbaum. Barenbaum does an excellent job of vividly portraying the setting and hardships experienced by the characters.  The characters, particularly Miri, are well-developed and likeable. There are also numerous twists and turns to keep the reader guessing throughout the book. I look forward to further novels by this author.
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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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