Sunday, November 27, 2022


Rae Meadows is the recipient of the 2019 Goldenberg Prize for Fiction, the 2018 Hackney Literary Award for the novel, and a finalist for the 2018 Manchester Fiction Prize. She grew up admiring the Soviet gymnasts of the 1970s, and in her forties decided to go back to the thing she loved as a child. She now practices regularly and can be found doing back handsprings. She lives with her family in Brooklyn.

Meadows applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Winterland, the second Homefront News mystery, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Winterland is a scene with Vera, who is a neighbor/tutor/caretaker of the main character Anya. Vera is in her late seventies, and as a younger woman spent ten years in a forced labor camp in the Arctic city of Norilsk, where the novel is set. You can’t write about the Soviet Union without writing about Stalin and the gulag, and Vera allowed me a way to bring in this history. On this page, Vera has ventured outside to go to the market now that spring has arrived, but as she returns home, she recalls her family’s arrest forty years before. There is an absurdist element to the charges against her husband, and, by extension, against her and her twelve-year-old son. They are caught in a web of punishment without reason. In this flashback, Vera is about to learn her family’s fate, and she is awash in the overwhelming feeling of powerlessness.

In Winterland, Vera plays a crucial role to both Anya, and in backstory, to Anya’s mother Katerina. It’s through Vera that Katerina learns the truth about the gulag camps, which begins her disillusionment with the Soviet Union, and thus sets the whole novel in motion. Vera’s stories are also important to understanding Anya’s experience in the state gymnastics program—the grueling physical demands, the cruelty, the belief in glory for the Motherland.

Vera remembers both life before the Revolution and the atrocities of Stalin’s rule. She is the holder of memories in a society that would rather forget. Although one doesn’t see into the whole novel on page 69, it gives a window into Soviet history through Vera’s experiences.
Learn more about the book and author at Rae Meadows's website.

The Page 69 Test: Mothers and Daughters.

The Page 69 Test: I Will Send Rain.

--Marshal Zeringue