Too Many Wolves in the Local Woods

Written by Marina Osipova
Review by Cindy Vallar

Born of a Russian mother and a German father, Ursula “Ulya” Franzevna Kriegshammer graduates from university, eager to begin her new job. Her father’s arrest for treason slams the door on that dream. Instead, she is offered employment as a spy since her knowledge of Russian and German is invaluable. When the Nazis break the non-aggression treaty and invade her country, she secures a job as a translator for German intelligence. Ulya walks a tightrope between life and death. Eventually, the line between friend and enemy blurs and her actions forever alter her destiny.

Natasha Ivanova has the chance to evacuate when the Germans invade, but she can’t leave her aunt alone and works for the Reich’s railroad repair shop. When a man from her past shows up on her doorstep, she surmises that he works with the Resistance. She wants to help and, even as their love rekindles, she becomes a go-between. She pretends to be the girlfriend of a Nazi who is being blackmailed to provide vital information. The hangings of partisans and the hatred for collaborators are daily reminders of the dangerous work she does, especially when she becomes pregnant.

Subtitled “A Novel of Love and Fate,” this book is also a story of atonement. Although it opens in 1971 in Moscow, the majority of the book takes place elsewhere in the Soviet Socialist Republic between 1938 and 1945. Loneliness is felt on many levels, but the emotional impact on readers could be stronger. The author vividly recreates life in Russia under Stalin and during the German occupation. This tale of the grim realities of war deftly demonstrates how cascading events intertwine and misinterpretation leads to sacrifice.