A Bend in the Stars

by Rachel Barenbaum

Book, 2019



Call number




Boston : New York, NY Grand Central Publishing, 2019


All the Light We Cannot See meets The Nightingale in this literary WWI-era novel and epic love story of a brilliant young doctor who races against Einstein to solve one of the universe's great mysteries. In Russia, in the summer of 1914, as war with Germany looms and the Czar's army tightens its grip on the local Jewish community, Miri Abramov and her brilliant physicist brother, Vanya, are facing an impossible decision. Since their parents drowned fleeing to America, Miri and Vanya have been raised by their babushka, a famous matchmaker who has taught them to protect themselves at all costs: to fight, to kill if necessary, and always to have an escape plan. But now, with fierce, headstrong Miri on the verge of becoming one of Russia's only female surgeons, and Vanya hoping to solve the final puzzles of Einstein's elusive theory of relativity, can they bear to leave the homeland that has given them so much? Before they have time to make their choice, war is declared and Vanya goes missing, along with Miri's fiancé. Miri braves the firing squad to go looking for them both. As the eclipse that will change history darkens skies across Russia, not only the safety of Miri's own family but the future of science itself hangs in the balance. Grounded in real history -- and inspired by the solar eclipse of 1914 -- A Bend in the Stars offers a heart-stopping account of modern science's greatest race amidst the chaos of World War I, and a love story as epic as the railways crossing Russia.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member beckyhaase
A BEND IN THE STARS by Rachel Barenbaum
Relativity and Russia star in this detailed novel of science and politics. Siblings Vanya (male, older, trying to prove Einstein’s Theory of Relativity) and Miri (female, a surgeon in a man’s field, following her deserter fiancée) flee across Russia
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trying to stay alive long enough to prove Vanya’s theory by photographing a solar eclipse as World War I begins.
You do NOT need to understand the Theory of Relativity to enjoy this epic novel while meandering through Russia. A triangular love story ensues when Miri saves a Jewish mystery man who then falls in love with her. The story is really the love story and the chase for a photo of the eclipsed sun all while being chased by a murderous villain.
The details are all there. The science is understandable, the characters are likeable (or detestable), the country is unmanageable, the climax is heart pounding. An enjoyable, if lengthy, read.
4 of 5 stars
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LibraryThing member pltgsage
I thought the writing was simplistic and the story too melodramatic for historical fiction.
LibraryThing member Kristymk18
A good historical fiction book, albeit a bit long. I'm always on the lookout for historical novels that don't take place in WWII. A Bend in the Stars fits that bill. Taking place in 1914, we follow Miri as she tries to find her brother and fiance all the while dealing with the start of WWI.
LibraryThing member HandelmanLibraryTINR
. Barenbaum has given us a sweeping epic steeped in the history of Czarist Russia, from its poverty-ridden shtels to its scientific intrigue that pits dark ambition against a passionate love of science. With the eclipse of 1914 as both backdrop and main event, Barenbaum’s characters demonstrate
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resilience in the face of prejudice and the ability to love even when the world is filled with hate. This heart-pounding journey across WWI era Russia about a brilliant young scientist racing against Einstein to solve one of the greatest mysteries of the universe is not to be missed!
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LibraryThing member muddyboy
This novel takes place in Russia during World War 1. The main character Miri and her brother Vanya are Jewish during a bad time for them. Her brother is a scientist who is trying to beat Einstein in his relativity studies. To do this her brother and fiance go on a journey to photograph an eclipse
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to prove his data. They separate and agree to meet up later and flee Russia and go to America as things are getting really bad for Jews under the Czar. The theme for the fiance is when the cats away the mice will play. Wink. Wink.
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LibraryThing member BookConcierge
Digital audiobook performed by Thérèse Plummer and Eduardo Bellarini

From the book jacket: In Russia in the summer of 1914, as war with Germany looms the czar’s army tightens its grip on the local Jewish community, Miri Abramov and her brilliant physicist brother, Vanya, are facing an impossible
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decision. Since their parents drowned, they’ve been raised by their babushka, who taught them to protect themselves at all costs: to fight, kill if necessary, and always have an escape plan. Now, with Miri on the verge of becoming one of Russia’s only female surgeons, and Vanya close to solving the puzzle of Einstein’s elusive theory of relativity, can they bear to leave the homeland that has given them so much?

My reactions:
This was an ambitious debut, and Barenbaum did a reasonably good job of painting the picture of a country divided by political upheaval and on the brink of war. But I think she bit off more than she could chew. There are so many subplots here … a romance or two, an escape from danger (or three), Vanya’s efforts to test his theory based on the solar eclipse, Miri’s efforts to be recognized as the surgeon she wants to be. They are chased from one end of Russia to another, riding trains and carts and living by their wits (and occasional muscle). They hide in filthy holes, and in “plain sight.” They are separated, reunited and separated again. I ached for some peace for them and for me as a reader.

The audio version is expertly performed by two very talented voice artists: Thérèse Plummer and Eduardo Bellarini. They really brought these characters to life and made me feel I was involved in the intrigue.
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LibraryThing member wagner.sarah35
This book had a great start - a new aspect to the story of Einstein's Theory of Relativity set in 1914 Russia - but I lost some of my interest in the story and I slogged my way to the finish. The bones of the plot are good - I really liked the characters, but I never felt compelled to read on the
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way I do with my favorite books. I also was disheartened by a certain character's death, but this was a decent book overall, just not one of my favorites.
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LibraryThing member jmoncton
Set in Russia before the outbreak of WW I, this follows the lives of a Jewish family who are trying to escape the prejudice and violence inflicted on Russian Jews. Miri is a female surgeon and her brother Vanya is a physicist. They've placed their hopes on escaping Russia through Vanya's work on
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finding the flaw with Einstein's theory of relativity. Vanya, brilliant in math feels that he is close to figuring this out, but needs to prove his theory with photos of the total solar eclipse, scheduled to occur over Russia in 1914. The result is a story that is richly descriptive of tsarist Russia with a page turning plot.
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LibraryThing member forsanolim
This is a fast-paced historical drama set in Russia at the outbreak of World War I. Miri Abramov is the first female doctor in her town; her brother, Vanya, is a talented physicist researching relativity, and his research and corresponding status as a "useful" member of the Jewish community affords
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their family a fragile stability on the eve of the war. But as the war steadily approaches, tensions and stakes rise, and in an attempt to fulfill the loftiest of his scientific aims, Vanya disappears at the war's beginning along with Miri's fiancé. Miri's attempt to locate them sets off a tale of science and history that unfolds across the dramatic landscape of imperial Russia.

This was remarkably well-researched, and Russia truly seemed to come alive in this book. It's quite plot-driven, and it's a very compelling story to read. I will say that, for me, my enjoyment of the book increased in the second half of the book. Through the first half, I was fairly lukewarm about the book, but the story was much more enjoyable for me in the second half. This might be due, at least in part, to the fact that my favorite character in the book was Miri without a doubt, and the second half of the book saw more focus on her.
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Original publication date



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