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Virginia author's debut novel draws inspiration from her youth in Moscow

The Orchard

Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry’s recently published novel The Orchard began as a short story in graduate school.

“The story is called Champions of the World and I wrote it as a graduate student at Hollins University. I was in Richard Dillard’s tutorial. Richard said ‘This voice, follow that voice in the story.’ And I did."

That voice led to the development of the novel which tells the story of four high school friends in Moscow coming of age during perestroika and the major changes it brought to their country and their lives.

“The novel is dedicated to my generation, generation perestroika. That’s what we experienced growing up. I remember that feeling of shame when perestroika started and they unearthed all that Stalin had done. And our parents, too, having to apologize for bequeathing us the mess, the country that was in such shambles. But, there was still a feeling of pride because of World War II. And because of how many Soviet soldiers had lost their lives defending not only Russia, or the Soviet Union, but the world.”

Gorcheva-Newberry’s novel The Orchard explores the consequences of Soviet rule and of perestroika, but she says current events may cause more dire consequences.

“I don’t know if there is a feeling of pride now or can ever be again left from us to our children. And I’m struggling to reconcile those feelings, you know. I’ve always loved my country, my homeland. But I have never felt more homesick or lonely than I do now.

As of now, I don’t see much hope for Ukraine or for Russia. And the only hope I really have is that somehow or someone would be able to stop this. I have a lot of Ukrainian friends and I talk to them on the phone and some of them have relatives there. I hear stories first hand, they’re not stories from TV or newspaper, and I’m disheartened because it is destroying everything and everyone. When people say it doesn’t concern me, how can it not concern you, it concerns everyone in the world.

You know when Shostakovich wrote his 7th Symphony, which is the Leningrad Symphony, it’s considered a victorious symphony. But some people heard the death march in it and I think it was not so much victorious music or, you know, music of death, but of survival. And I believe that we can rise once again.”

Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry’s debut novel is The Orchard.

Extended Interview with Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry

Luke Church hosts All Things Considered on Radio IQ, and Roots Down on WVTF Music.