by Leonora Meriel
YA Magical Realism
For seven-year old Angela, happiness is exploring the lush countryside around her home in western Ukraine. Her wild imagination takes her into birds and flowers, and into the waters of the river.
All that changes when, one morning, she sees her mother crying. As she tries to find out why, she is drawn on an extraordinary journey into the secrets of her family, and her mother's fateful choices.
Can Angela lead her mother back to happiness before her innocence is destroyed by the shadows of a dark past?
Beautiful, poetic and richly sensory, this is a tale that will haunt and lift its readers.
Meet the Characters. . .
Ukraine, a village deep in the countryside. A picturesque, verdant landscape. The houses are beautiful but have few amenities: water is gathered from the well, clothes are washed by hand, and the “outhouse” toilet is in the garden. Life is hard work here, and close to nature.
There are many Ukrainian words in the novel, especially emphasizing the names of endearment Ukrainian people give to each other. Lastivka is “little swallow”; zaika is ‘little rabbit”; harnenka is “my beautiful one.”
Lyuda is a beautiful woman in her early twenties who has suffered some hard knocks early on. Pregnant at just sixteen, she left school and the child’s father moved into their house in the village. Her father died, and her mother soon after, and Lyuda found herself a teenager loaded down with the pressures of a baby, looking after a house, and a man who expected her to cook for him and be the light-hearted girl he fell in love with. Eventually, the situation grows intolerable for him and he abandons her. At seventeen, she is entirely alone with a small baby. She falls into a deep cycle of depression and self-blame, feeling that her life is over and that she is at fault. She doesn’t let anyone close to her.
It is only when her daughter Angela is a little older – aged seven – that she starts to notice how sad her mother is. She decides to do something about it.
Seven-year-old girl Angela has been left alone to do as she likes for most of her life. Her mother makes sure her dresses are clean and her hair is untangled, but she is free to play as she wishes. She has a wild imagination and she sees no boundaries between her thoughts and the world around her: she flies in the body of a bird, she becomes the wind, she enters a storm – she is pure spirit and possibility.
When she starts to notice her mother crying every time she is alone, Angela is determined to find out why, and to help her mother regain the happiness she herself feels. At the heart of her investigation are questions that now begin to haunt her: Where is her father? Why does no one come to the house? Why does her mother cry when she thinks no one can see her?
When Angela meets the spirit of her grandmother, they come up with a plan to help Lyuda.
The name Zoryana, which comes from the Ukrainian root zorya, means star, dawn, youth, day or spring. Zoryana has returned to the Earth in spirit form after seeing the unhappiness of her daughter and her failure to move past her teenage mistakes.
Zoryana feels that she did not prepare her daughter enough for the real world before she died, and she sees her struggling and unhappy. She wants to show her that life has highs and lows and that she must choose a new path for herself. She connects with her granddaughter Angela, who is not daunted by meeting the spirit of a relative, and together they help Lyuda to understand and see the joy in her life.
Nicolai, or Kolya, lives next door to Lyuda and brews home-made vodka in his shed. He sells it to her and catches rabbits for her to eat. He was a childhood friend of her mother, Zoryana, and he hates to see her so unhappy. He’d love to help her, but she pushes him away. When he finally makes a terrible mistake, there is a high price to pay.
Book Buzz. . .
“Readers looking for a classic tale of love and loss will be rewarded with an intoxicating world” ~~ Kirkus Reviews
“The language is lyrical and poetic and, in places, begs to be read repeatedly for the sheer joy of it… A literary work of art.” ~~ Fiona Adams, The Richmond Magazine
“Rich and poetic in detail, it is an often dreamy, oneiric narrative rooted in an exaltation of nature… A lovely novel.” ~~ IndieReader
And here she is. . .
And here she is. . .
Leonora Meriel grew up in London and studied literature at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and Queen’s University in Canada. She worked at the United Nations in New York, and then for a multinational law firm.
In 2003 she moved from New York to Kyiv, where she founded and managed Ukraine’s largest Internet company. She studied at Kyiv Mohyla Business School and earned an MBA, which included a study trip around China and Taiwan, and climbing to the top of Hoverla, Ukraine’s highest peak and part of the Carpathian Mountains. She also served as President of the International Women’s Club of Kyiv, a major local charity.
During her years in Ukraine, she learned to speak Ukrainian and Russian, witnessed two revolutions and got to know an extraordinary country at a key period of its development.
In 2008, she decided to return to her dream of being a writer, and to dedicate her career to literature. In 2011, she completed The Woman Behind the Waterfall, set in a village in western Ukraine. While her first novel was with a London agent, Leonora completed her second novel The Unity Game, set in New York City and on a distant planet.
Leonora currently lives in Barcelona and London and has two children. She is working on her third novel.
Find out more about Leonora. . .