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The Little Russian Hardcover – February 21, 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for The Little Russian

"In The Little Russian, Susan Sherman offers much more than an eloquently gripping narrative set against an explosive backdrop. She is inviting us to consider the too-often unsung heroines of history, the women whose ferocious willpower and dazzling ingenuity can be more potent than gunpowder when it comes to changing the world." —The Los Angeles Review of Books

"Sherman’s extraordinary debut novel plunges her readers into the bitter cold, deprivation, and upheaval of early 20th-century wartime Russia. Berta is a fascinating mix of petty vanity, devoted parenting, and breathtaking courage, fleshed out with cinematic detail that’s both irresistible and spectacularly illuminating. All fiction readers will enjoy." —Library Journal (starred)

"Entrancing, meticulously researched . . . The Little Russian is a masterful study of one woman’s fight to stay afloat and alive in an era in which governance was consolidated with oppression and barbarism . . . Sherman keeps us guessing as to whether her heroine can make it over the border to be reunited with her given-up-for-lost Hershel, and we devour the last pages greedily."—Malcolm Forbes, Rain Taxi

"Powerful, harrowing and richly atmospheric, Susan Sherman's unflinching debut novel captures the enduring light of the human spirit when faced with the darkness of unimaginable loss. It follows the journey of Berta Alshonsky, a Jewish woman who falls from the ranks of European high society during the pogroms and must struggle to keep her children alive in the depths of war-torn Russia. The Little Russian provides an astonishing look at life for many Russian Jews throughout this time in history. It’s a captivating read told through a voice we won't soon forget." —Ilie Ruby, author of The Language of Trees

"[An] impressive debut . . . Sherman’s sweeping saga works on multiple levels, from its grim depiction of war’s depredations to its harsh portrayals of anti-Semitism to its fiery love story. A mesmerizing read." —Booklist (starred)

"An impressive fiction debut with an epic tale of war’s transformative effects on one Russian woman and her family." —Publishers Weekly

"Moving and smart, The Little Russian is a sweeping tale of survival, loss, love, loyalty, family, religion, racism, and war. Susan Sherman masterfully blends history into fiction, delivering a self-assured, elegant debut." —Victoria Patterson, author of This Vacant Paradise

"If Margaret Mitchell and Isaac Bashevis Singer had a baby, it would be The Little Russian. It's impossible not to be deeply impressed by this sweeping portrait of Russia during the pogroms, but it is even more impossible not to be moved by this fiery and deeply human love story. A moving and brilliantly researched debut, I just loved it." —Sheri Holman, author of The Dress Lodger

About the Author

Susan Sherman is a former Chairman of the Art Department of Whittier College, a small liberal arts university once attended by President Richard Nixon. She is also the co-creator of “That’s So Raven,” one of the most successful television shows for children in the history of the Disney Network. This is her first novel.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint (February 21, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582437726
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582437729
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,337,526 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I started out as a ceramic artist, working in clay, doing narrative pieces that told a story. I was quite successful in a small way, showing my work in different cities, teaching, running the art gallery at Whittier College and eventually becoming an assistant professor of art and, for one year, the chair of the department. Then one day I had a life changing revelation: It's easier to tell stories with words. Wow! No more mud; just a computer and Word. No more lugging hundreds of pounds of clay around and staying up until dawn watching the kilns. Since then I have been a struggling would-be author, a successful T.V. writer/producer (co-created That's So Raven for Disney) and finally the author of The Little Russian.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I have to admit, I am not a fan of historical fiction. But, being a writer myself, a friend recommended that I check out this novel for, if nothing else, its writing style. I was impressed from the start. This story is gritty, yet beautiful. The author knows how to use description without overstylizing. She puts you into a Russian/Ukrainian era in the early 1900's in a way that is credible, and distinct. I could taste the food at Berta's parent's store, and smell the stank of the city of Mosny in the heat of summer. Amazing, and that's just the sensory details. This author knows how to tell an epic, with clear concise language in a way that almost feels like a fairy tale, but also with the right amount of drama. I loved this book from start to finish, and hope Ms. Sherman has another novel up her sleeve soon.
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Format: Hardcover
Set against a backdrop of early 20th century Russia, this deeply moving novel follows one woman's dogged fight for survival for herself and her family. Amidst brutal pogroms and harsh winters Berta Alshonsky's search for her beloved husband rings with human tenderness and spirit. Beautifully written, fast-paced, crackling with history and humor this novel is one of the best I've read in ages.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Susie Sherman explores this in her (I can't believe it's a debut) novel, The Little Russian. Writing with the style and assurance of a seasoned writer well in to her career, Sherman delivers a book that will appeal to fans of Historical Fiction. Set in early twentieth century Russia against the background of Pograms (which were massacres waged against Jews) and then war, we are introduced to Berta. Berta is educated, clever, impetuous and at times spoiled. She's an atypical heroine to say the very least and calls to mind Scarlett O'Hara. Berta's fortune rises and falls with tragedies of the time. The most striking element to TLR is the understated depiction of the violence. Sherman sort of weaves it into the scenery as a backdrop steeping the reader in Berta's reality. The story loses a lot of tension during the end possibly to large time leaps within chapters and not much propelling action. If you enjoy detailed vivid novels, this is a great pick.
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Format: Hardcover
We've been here before - Fiddler on the Roof with some Dr. Zhivago - but it's worth taking the trip again when the narrative thrust is so compelling. Berthe's story includes luxurious city living, rural boredom, romance,
an affluent married life, abandonment, the Russian Revolution, resourceful entrepreneurship, with a cliffhanger of an ending - and so much more. Sherman is a solid story teller who knows how to maneuver her plot twists for prime effect. She's particularly striking with her descriptions of the pogroms, capturing their violence with a stark and vivid chill. And writing about a thwarted shtetl attack, the author has you marveling at the logistical strategy of its prime mover.

There are times, though, when the indication of a novelist's debut is all too clear. Too often, Sherman's prose style clunks along in standard expository style. Too much description bogs down several incidents and her language isn't original enough to justify her trite and wordy prose. You can sense the strain of her setting up a scene, and a few of her characterizations are drawn so boldly as to be melodramatic. And she's the kind of a writer who feels it necessary to write a simple declaration similar to "don't do that anymore," then append an obvious "she said sternly." (that's not an exact quote, but it expresses the bluntness of her writing.)

Do not let the qualifications prevent you from reading The Little Russian. They are (relatively) minor to a reader's overall enjoyment. Like a mother's favorite dessert which doesn't always come out quite right, the novel is still a deeply satisfying read and something to truly savor.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is written in a lyrical, easy-to-read, and surprisingly humorous style. It gave me a completely new understanding and appreciation for this period of history. I loved these characters. And they have stayed with me.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I took in a breath when I started the book and didn't exhale until I was finished. It just keeps moving on and you have to know what happened next before you can put it down. Therefore nothing got done at my house except me reading.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Now and then my grandmother would let a tiny comment slip about what it was like growing up in Russia. About how if someone mouthed off, how he would disappear and no one would ever talk of it; ever. Stories of children sent to hide cows in the woods, then watching their homes and families suffer atrocious cruelties. But it was all bits and pieces. Sue Sherman has woven an incredible masterpiece including the good, the bad and the ugly. The social swings, the economics swings, the love stories, when the bravest thing to do is survive.

This book is like mind melding with someone through all their memories, it is the very essence of the heart and soul. Couldn't put the book down.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Set in early 20th century Russia, this ambitious historical novel tells the story of a time and a place and a world that has faded into history. This is the story of Berta, a Jewish woman who, as a teenager was a companion to a young woman of wealth. When this young woman got married, Berta is sent back to her small Jewish town where life is harsh. Soon she falls in love with a dashing young Jewish man who is active in underground politics. They marry, have two children and lead a rather affluent life. But her husband goes too far in trying to help others and is forced to flee to America. He wants her to go with him but she declines. Her life in Russia is good and she is reluctant to go. However, she gradually loses her wealth and her friends. Things go from bad to worse. Soon she is living in a Jewish slum where there is little food or fuel and the family is suffering. She tries her best to make ends meet by becoming a seller of various goods. She is often cold and hungry but she does her best for her family. However, Russia is going through civil war, things go from bad to worse, and the family is starving.

All this seemed very melodramatic to me. The author often talks about her wet and frozen feet and paints a portrait of a harsh and unforgiving landscape. Jews are often the victims of pogroms and are robbed and murdered,. In many ways the character is just too good to be true which is one of the reasons why I found this book a little simplistic for my taste. There are constant hardships but there was no doubt in my mind that the book would have a happy ending.

This is not a great book but it is an easy and fast read. New challenges happen on every page and there is never a dull moment.
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