2012 Book

A Mountain of Crumbs
By Elena Gorokhova


An overview of the book from Simon and Schuster
Elena Gorokhova’s A Mountain of Crumbs is the moving story of a Soviet girl who discovers the truths adults are hiding from her and the lies her homeland lives by. Elena’s country is no longer the majestic Russia of literature or the tsars, but a nation struggling to retain its power and its pride. Born with a desire to explore the world beyond her borders, Elena finds her passion in the complexity of the English language—but in the Soviet Union of the 1960s such a passion verges on the subversive. Elena is controlled by the state the same way she is controlled by her mother, a mirror image of her motherland: overbearing, protective, difficult to leave. In the battle between a strong-willed daughter and her authoritarian mother, the daughter, in the end, must break free and leave in order to survive. Through Elena’s captivating voice, we learn not only the stories of Russian family life in the second half of the twentieth century, but also the story of one rebellious citizen whose curiosity and determination finally transport her to a new world. It is an elegy to the lost country of childhood, where those who leave can never return.

Listen to Public Radio 90's interview with Elena Gorokhova while she was on campus.


“Elena Gorokhova reveals with beautiful writing the panic of growing up inside the secrecy of Brezhnev’s Soviet Union. . . . Even if Elena Gorokhova weren’t such a gorgeous writer, her memoir, “A Mountain of Crumbs,” would be a terrific read. . . . She writes with irony and subtlety about the “bright future” of the Soviet Union, even as she plans her exodus. What makes this book so remarkable, though, is Gorokhova’s evocative and sensuous writing.”

The Star-Tribune (Minneapolis-St. Paul)

“A moving memoir about one woman’s journey from the Soviet Union . . . Captivating.”

“Artful memoir about the angst and joys of growing up behind the Iron Curtain. . . . Articulate, touching and hopeful.” Kirkus Reviews

“Extraordinarily rich in sensory and emotional detail . . . An engrossing portrait of a very lively, intelligent girl coming of emotional and intellectual age in the post-Stalinist Soviet Union.” Bookpage

“Wry . . . both comic and anguished . . . but never cold or simple.” Booklist

“Three pages into this beautifully crafted memoir and you know that Gorokhova has always been a writer. . . . the kind that envelops and transports you and every so often leaves you breathless. . . . Recounted in shimmering detail.” The Bergen Record (New Jersey)

Gorokhova has the reader in the palms of her hands. . . . Stellar . . . This compelling and unusual tale . . . is inherently captivating.” The Miami Herald  

Check back in News and Events section to see the dates for a possible author visit, book discussions and other special events surrounding this book. Plus, check out Marquette County's One Book One Community on Facebook!

Suggested books similar to A Mountain of Crumbs for younger readers

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, for ages 12 and up.

Breaking Stalin's Nose by Eugene Yelchin, for ages 8 and up.


Adults will enjoy these books as well!

The 2012 Finalists

As it goes every year, it is very difficult to chose just one book as the featured One Book One Community selection. Many suggestions are made to the committee members and dozens of titles are read by the reading committee, whose members then present a short list of recommended titles to the larger OBOC committee. All of the committee members then read and discuss those books. A vote is then taken on what the selection will be.

This year's other finalist titles were:
The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon