In terms of plot summary, it’s the story of an American woman, still filled with grief and guilt, even though it’s been years since the death of her brother. Alexandra resolves to start over by leaving the United States to teach English in Bulgaria. But upon arrival an accidental encounter with strangers and a lost urn filled with ashes sweep her into a page-turning mystery that takes nearly 500 pages to resolve. Along the way, events slowly unravel the story of a gifted musician who gets caught up in the shadow camps where Bulgarian communists brutally punished Stalin-era dissidents alongside thousands of innocents.
But this extremely well-written book is so much richer in its exploration of profound human experiences. It shows how quickly connections can form between strangers. How deep loyalty can run in families. It’s about the ways people are able to withstand despair and hopelessness, simply by drawing on their own considerable internal resources. And most of all, how powerful love can be – in all its forms. I found reading this book a truly exceptional experience.