A Bend in the Stars

Written by Rachel Barenbaum
Review by Alana White

Russia, 1914. Against the backdrop of increasingly brutal attacks on the Jewish community, Miri Abramov and her brother, Vanya, fight formidable odds—Miri, to overcome what seems like insurmountable prejudice to become one of the country’s only female surgeons, and Vanya, to solve the puzzle of Einstein’s theory of relativity. Their family’s dream has been to flee to America, but with so much at stake for each of them, how can they bear to leave their homeland? As it happens, before they can decide what to do, war is declared. And then Vanya, on the hunt for evidence that will enable him to calculate the math that will profoundly affect science, disappears, along with Miri’s fiancé.

Now, accompanied by an enigmatic soldier, Miri begins a search that finds her crisscrossing Russia in a desperate effort to find her brother and the man she has planned to marry. Romance and mayhem ensue in the thick of social and political crisis, presented in alternating chapters with different points of view. The author does a commendable job of guiding readers through the intricacies of the theory of relativity, Vanya’s realization that light bends, and his race to photograph light curving around the sun during the total solar eclipse visible in Russia on 21 August 1914. This, while evading treacherous competitors who will stop at nothing, even murder, to beat him to it.