The Orphan Sky by Ella Leya (5 out of 5)

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I don’t remember if I asked Valerie at Sourcebooks for this or if she just sent it. This was released on February 3, 2015, so unlike some of the recent posts, this book is actually out on your bookstore shelves now. It was a book I put off for a bit, because the subject matter seemed too heavy at a time when some heavy things were going on in life, so I refrained from reading it right away. I wish I had! It’s fantastic. Any similarities to The Kite Runner? A few, but in the best way. For I loved that book, and I loved this one as well. Now if I can get some persnickety bookstore customers to give it a chance…..

Azerbaijan in the late 1970’s, proudly standing under the flag of the Communist Party. Leila is a classically trained pianist who is recruited by her beloved mentor to spy on a small music shop that is suspected of being disloyal to the Communist Party and open to outside influences. Leila does what any proud daughter of a Communist revolution.. she agrees. Things don’t go as they should when she meets Tahir, the rebel spirit who owns the music shop. Tahir enjoys and openly does things that the Communist party does not embrace- he paints wildly abstract paintings, plays jazz, and makes his political leanings- against the regime- open and public. In other words, exactly why Leila’s mentor asks her to bust him. As these things happen, close quarters and Leila’s burgeoning curiosity about the teachings and ways of the Western world start to collide, and she begins to question her allegiance to the Communists all these years. She also begins to question her traitorous heart, because she’s falling fast and hard for Tahir. Can this end well? Or will this end in sorrow, as the setup dictates it may? Can love conquer all or is living in a Muslim Soviet republic too much to overcome? Will Leila face the wrath of those that she willingly followed all those years? To say that this is a novel that consumes you once you read it, isn’t giving it nearly enough credit. It’s a sobering study of the Communist party in the 70’s marked with the hopeless romanticism of a young girl in love but terrified of change and retaliation. Leya’s writing is fluid and poetic and you’re lost in all the wonders of love amongst what may be the ruins of her betrayal to the party. Even more amazing is the fact that the author’s second language is English. So well written is this story that you wouldn’t know it if the author notes didn’t tell you that. Leya knows firsthand how it is to start over- in 1990, she received asylum in the United States (and yes, Baku, Azerbaijan, is her birthplace). I would strongly urge you to pick this up and read it as soon as you can. Book clubs will (and should) eat this book up.

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~ by generationgbooks on March 8, 2015.

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