Wednesday, March 27, 2019

"Finding Katarina M."

Elisabeth Elo grew up in Boston, attended Brown University, and earned a PhD in American Literature at Brandeis University. She has published scholarly articles on subjects as diverse as Walt Whitman and Cinderella, and her essays and Pushcart-nominated short stories have appeared in a variety of publications. Elo worked as a magazine editor, a high-tech product manager, and a halfway house counselor before beginning to write fiction.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Finding Katarina M., and reported the following:
From page 69:
find life-sized stuffed mammoths, whatever they are. And there’s a khomus museum, the only one of its kind in the world!”


“I’m sure you’ve seen one, Nat. It’s that metal instrument that people hold against their lips, and then they pluck a reed that vibrates at different speeds? Apparently, there are a lot of excellent khomus players in Yakutsk. And did you know that our own President Abraham Lincoln was quite a good khomus player himself? He’s even featured in the museum’s Hall of Fame!”

“Gosh. I didn’t know that, Mom.”

“See? There’s always so much to learn about a place.”

I sighed, knowing I was beat. Vera would never forgive me if I left Yakutsk so fast. In a few days, maybe she’d see things differently. After she’d had a little more time to prepare herself psychologically for what she would probably experience as a personal rejection, though I would do my best to talk her out of that.

“Okay. You made your point. There is a lot to see here,” I said, trying to work myself into the tourist spirit.

Vera paused. “Are you sure you’re okay with this? It’s not too much to ask, is it? A few more days, just to be sure there hasn’t been some simple mix-up that will be straightened out soon?”

“It’s fine, Mom,” I said. “It doesn’t make sense to have come all this way just to turn around and go home. And who knows—I may get a call from Lena tonight.”

“I hope so. I truly do.”

“So do I. Now you take it easy, okay? No traipsing up and down the halls in the middle of the night.”

“You make it sound like I’m out on safari.”

“Love you, Mom.”

“Oh, Natalie. I love you, too.”
Finding Katarina M. is about an American woman who travels to Russia to find her estranged grandmother, only to find herself in some unexpected and very dangerous situations. It’s a dark, thriller-ish story, but it does have its lighter moments, and this is one of them. In this scene, Natalie, the protagonist, has gone to the Siberian city of Yakutsk to meet her aunt, who is supposed to take her to see her grandmother in a remote village. But the aunt didn’t show up at the airport to meet her as promised, and she isn’t answering her phone. Natalie is flummoxed. After doing everything she can think of to contact her aunt, she reluctantly decides to return to the States. She breaks the news to her invalid mother, Vera, over the phone. Vera is terribly disappointed. She convinces Natalie to stay in Yakutsk a little longer by touting the charms of the city—the Permafrost Institute, the Mammoth Museum, and, on this page, the allegedly world famous Khomus Museum.

There really is a Khomus Museum in Yakutsk. I went there myself, and it’s true that Abraham Lincoln is in the museum’s Hall of Fame. I was a bit startled when I saw his stern, familiar photograph on the wall of esteemed khomus players!
Visit Elisabeth Elo's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Elisabeth Elo & Freddie.

My Book, The Movies: Finding Katarina M.

--Marshal Zeringue