Freebies for Readers
Look Inside Even You
Brooklyn, New York February 1995
At its first meeting, the bereavement support group’s facilitator asked the eight of them to give their spouse’s name and the basic circumstances of the death. Claire being the only “gay” member of the group, Donna could be forgiven for saying “spouses” and not mentioning partners or some other lame euphemism. When Claire’s turn came, and she said she’d been together with Jessie twenty-three years, nobody around the circle so much as batted an eye. What a relief that these strangers should be so open minded.
From the fourth of Jessie’s notebooks
The place: Tulsa, Oklahoma
The time: Spring 1944
My mother decided I should go to Monte Cassino so I wouldn’t have to feel bad about being a burden. She couldn’t be home much; she was looking for the right husband, slow work the third time around. I didn’t see why Ada couldn’t take care of me, until I overheard my mother telling Ada she would have to let her go, money was tight.
Look Inside Rivka’s War
On the Eastern Front, 1917
PEERING INTO THE black: useless. No information to be had there. You have to move by inches, as if with feelers on the soles of your feet. Falling shells illuminate the trench, but little can be seen in this smoke-fouled light, a ghastly flickering brilliance less comforting even than the darkness, for it exposes your silhouette to enemy snipers. Rivka is engrossed in the placement of each step and in the information it brings her: wet or dry, slippery or spongy or solid. In front of her moves the Lieutenant Colonel, and in front of him, Natalia Ivanova Tatuyeva, her latest and best friend. At her back is the adjutant to the Lieutenant Colonel, and beyond him, Olga Stepanova Redzvenka. Up and down the line, a verst in each direction, they file into place: boy-girl-boy-girl, rifles at the ready, every nerve alive, every fiber awaiting the fateful word.
Reader’s Guide to Rivka’s War
At the Intersection of Fact, Truth and Fiction
THERE REALLY WAS a Battalion of Death led by Maria Bochkareva. In creating Rivka’s War, I mined from her autobiography and journalistic sources of the period to provide as faithful an account of her and her exploits as possible. The same is true of other historical figures: wherever possible, I used their words and sought to remain true to historical fact—except, of course, where fact interfered with the truth of the narrative. Here’s a rundown of the characters in Rivka’s War.
Read “Moscow 1989,” a short story by Marilyn Oser
BREZHNEV’S DAUGHTER IS soggy with grief and cheap wine. She sits in a heavy wooden kitchen chair, folded arms and stolid breasts resting their weight against the cracked, yellowing surface of a Formica table. Smeared with drink, bleared with pain, her face crumples into a beggarly smile. The maudlin tears she squeezed out moments ago are still wet on her cheeks. Once, she says, she was beautiful and much sought after, always at the center of a circle of handsome men. Now, she has lost her teeth, and no one comes. I think it is a metaphor until, simpering, she opens her lips upon wasted gums.