Lost Believers: A Novel (Hardcover)

Lost Believers: A Novel By Irina Zhorov Cover Image

Lost Believers: A Novel (Hardcover)


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A rich, immersive debut novel, inspired by true events, about a meeting between two women in 1970s Soviet Russia—a deeply religious homesteader living in isolation with her family on the Siberian taiga and an ambitious scientist—that irrevocably changes the course of both of their lives.

Galina, a promising young geologist from Moscow, is falling in love with her pilot, Snow Crane, on a trip exploring for minerals in Siberia. As their helicopter hovers over what should be a stretch of uninhabited forest, they see a small hut and a garden—and, the following day, when they hike from their field camp to the hut, they find a family.

Agafia was born in Siberia into a family of Old Believers, a small sect of Christians who rejected the reforms that shaped the modern Russian Orthodox church. Her parents fled religious persecution four decades earlier, hiking deep into the snowy wilderness and eventually building a home far away from the dangerous and sinful world. Galina and Snow Crane are the first people she has ever met outside of her immediate family. As the two women develop a friendship, each becomes conflicted about futures that once seemed certain—and each is hindered by the immovable forces shaping their lives: Galina can’t shake the confines of her Soviet upbringing, and Agafia’s focus drifts from her faith to the beauty of the relentlessly harsh taiga. Even worse, Galina begins to see her work opening mines as a threat to Agafia and her home, mirroring the exploitation of the natural world happening all across the Soviet Union.

A vivid and eye-opening story about fate, ambition, and Soviet politics, Lost Believers is an unforgettable journey.
Irina Zhorov was born in Uzbekistan, in the Soviet Union, and moved to Philadelphia on the eve of its dissolution. After failing to make use of a geology degree, she received an MFA from the University of Wyoming. She’s worked as a journalist for more than a decade, reporting primarily on environmental issues.
Product Details ISBN: 9781668011539
ISBN-10: 1668011530
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: August 1st, 2023
Pages: 320
Language: English
"Zhorov deftly explores the landscape of the two women's lives and the choices they must make as their worlds converge, mapping the forces of faith and fate, progress and preservation onto the backdrop of 1970s Soviet life."
—Scientific American

"A beautiful, mournful novel about faith gravely tempered by grief and the brutal iron of modernity bringing the greatest of losses. Zhorov's voice is fresh and appealing."
—Joy Williams, author of The Visiting Privilege and Harrow

Lost Believers reads like a journey into the heart of a dark Siberian fairytale—Irina Zhorov a guide I trusted and believed in completely, and admired for the compassion she has for her characters, and for the earth itself.”
—Carys Davies, author of West and The Mission House

“This hard, beautiful, highly moving novel seems carved straight out of the Siberian landscape it so vividly describes.  Whether she is evoking the mountains and woods of the legendary taiga or Moscow in the 1970s, Zhorov writes with vision and clarity. Galina and Agafia and the whole lost world they inhabit come wonderfully alive.”
—Laird Hunt, author of Zorrie and This Wide Terraqueous World

“Like the wilds of Siberia—wondrous, ruthless, and full of surprises. A novel about survival, about carving out space for joy in the face of brutality, about staying and about leaving, about choosing between freedom and the people you love.”
—Ash Davidson, author of Damnation Spring