All That Is Solid Melts Into Air (Paperback)$14.99ISBN-13: 9780062246875
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Published: Harper Perennial, 4/2014In Moscow, a nine-year-old child prodigy has his finger broken by thugs while his piano teacher, his mother and his aunt Marie worry because he’s so late. Once he finally turns up, Grigory, a skilled surgeon and ex-husband to Marie, treats the child’s broken finger. Meanwhile , in the countryside not far from Chernobyl, a slightly older boy, out for a morning hunt with his father, is mystified by the odd behavior of birds, the inexplicable bleeding of cattle.
So begins a novel as powerful as the nuclear meltdown it chronicles. The cast of characters, connected by blood and by love, but also by fate, expose truth of two kinds. The truth behind the disintegration of a nuclear power plant, and also of the society for which the nuclear meltdown serves as metaphor. We watch people do what they’re told—or what will advance their ambition—while willfully ignoring reality. In the process they cause already staggering casualties to multiply. The short-sighted stupidity that allows this to happen is caustically ironic. How can so many lives be sacrificed in order to allow officials to deny truth—truth the very denial of which will kill them in the end? But not everything melts into air in this book, despite the title. McKeon writes with shocking skill, forging bonds between readers and both boys, and with the women who care for them as well as the surgeon. Grigory is one of the few in power to grasp the horror of the situation, one of the few who refuses to ignore it. Yet even as anger at the foolishness and arrogance of the post-Soviet system blazes across the pages of this novel, so does evidence of the love that laces the characters to one another. The backstory behind the marriage of Marie and Grigory emerges. So do the reasons for the wavering commitment of one boy to his music, the sacrifices made by all three women. At this remarkable tale’s heart lies a question that is also at the heart of our existence: is man’s insane and insanely destructive drive our endgame? Or, does love give humankind some chance?
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