Review by Olga Bukhina
Voice (Голос) by Daria Dotsuk
Сover design by Vlada Myakonkina
Published by Samokat, 2017
Recommended age: 12+
This book with its telling title Voice is about a teenage girl who survived a bomb explosion in the Moscow subway during a terrorist attack. Physically, Sasha is fine, but emotionally she is a total mess. She suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder with frequent panic episodes.
“You can’t see a build-up of fear in the blood with an ultrasound or a microscope. But I feel it. It’s as if the fear is injected in me, runs through my veins, poisoning everything inside.” *
Her parents do not understand this invisible illness. Her father insists that she just worked herself up into this state. Her mother is really sorry for her, but she also cannot understand why her daughter is not getting any better. Trying to cope with this new reality of fear and a lack of control over her own life and her own body, Sasha leaves Moscow for Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea to live with her grandmother. The healing process is slow and painful. In the local library, Sasha meets her peers and attends a book group. These new friends help her while she is helping them to go through their difficulties: the stuttering of an aspiring singer and the grief of a grandson who wants the story of his deceased grandfather to be known to the world. Together, these teens read Edgar Allan Poe, Franz Kafka, and Shirley Jackson, and they talk about the most important issues of life and death, and especially of death.
There is a powerful healing power hidden in the history of Kaliningrad, which is the old German town Königsberg and home of the famous philosopher Kant. During World War II, the Jewish population of the town was destroyed by the Germans, and after the War, the remaining German population was destroyed or expelled by the Soviets. Sasha’s friend Stas tells her the story of his grandfather, a Russian soldier who fell in love with a German girl. Talking to her grandmother, Sasha learns about her great-grandmother who settled there after the War and never was able to make peace with this seaside town and its ominously crying seagulls. These stories help Sasha accept her condition and break the cycle of fear.
* Quotation from the book translated by Kelly Herold
Daria Dotsuk is a young writer and a blogger. She also teaches creative writing to children and adults. Most of her books are for pre-teens and teens. Voice was published in 2017 by the Samokat Publishing House. Among Dotsuk’s books are Поход к двум водопадам (The Trip to Two Waterfalls, 2017), Домик над обрывом (A Little House on the Bluff, 2017), and Я и мое чудовище (I and My Monster, 2013).
Olga Bukhina is a translator, a writer, a children’s books specialist, and an independent scholar based in New York City. She has translated over forty books from English into Russian: young readers’ novels, graphic novels, and picture books as well as historical fiction, non-fiction, and scholarly books. Olga has co-authored three children’s books for the Children’s Project of Ludmila Ulitskaya. She writes about children’s literature for various journals, collections, and online publications in Russian and in English. Her book The Ugly Duckling, Harry Potter, and Others: A Guide to Children’s Books About Orphans was published in Moscow.