Set during the 2014 revolution in Ukraine, a unique and dazzling debut fiction – that has already gained praise and prizes – that combines history, folklore, oral history and news reports to give a human face and understanding to the complexity of today’s conflict.
A Best Book of the Year -New York Public Library, Cosmopolitan, Independent Book Review
\”I tore through I Will Die in a Foreign Land… nothing has given me such a profound impression of what Ukrainians have endured as this intensely moving novel.\” Ron Charles, Washington Post
In 1913, a Russian ballet incited a riot in Paris at the new The tre de Champs-Elysees. \”Only a Russian could do that,\” says Aleksandr Ivanovich. \”Only a Russian could make the whole world go mad.\”
A century later, in November 2013, thousands of Ukrainian citizens gathered at Independence Square (Euromaidan) in Kyiv to protest then-President Yanukovych’s failure to sign a referendum with the European Union, opting instead to forge a closer alliance with President Vladimir Putin and Russia. The peaceful protests turned violent when military police shot live ammunition into the crowd, killing over a hundred civilians.
I Will Die in a Foreign Land is a novel that follows four individuals over the course of a volatile Ukrainian winter, as their lives are changed forever by the Euromaidan protests. Katya is a Ukrainian-American doctor stationed at a makeshift medical clinic in St. Michael’s Monastery; Misha is an engineer originally from Pripyat, near Chernobyl, who has lived in Kyiv since his wife’s death; Slava is a fiery young activist whose past hardships steel her determination in the face of persecution; and Aleksandr Ivanovich, a former KGB agent, climbs atop a burned-out police bus at Independence Square and plays the piano. As Katya, Misha, Slava, and Aleksandr’s lives become intertwined, they each seek out love, redemption and meaning during a tumultuous and violent period.
In this dazzling debut novel, Kalani Pickhart blends narrative, folklore, journalism and Slavic history to create a moving story of beauty and love in a time of terror, I Will Die in a Foreign Land is an ambitious, intimate, and haunting portrait of human perseverance and the will to survive.
An unforgettable reading experience and a critical lesson in ongoing global history.
This bighearted novel generously portrays the unforgettable set of characters through their determination to face oppression. It’s a stunner.
Publishers Weekly, Starred review
A debut that is as thoughtful as it is explosive.
Rooted in historical events, the novel follows four unforgettable characters finding their way amidst the violence and turmoil, striving to live and not just survive. So gorgeous and oh so very timely.
A fully immersive experience that’s perfect for a winter read.
Cosmopolitan, Best Historical Fiction Novels of the year
Simply breathtaking in its scope. Pickhart’s storytelling is flawless with nothing gratuitous or superfluous. She has taken a large, complex subject and rendered it both tragic and tender by reminding the reader that in the end, the individual life touched by conflict is what really matters.
New York Journal of Books
In many ways, the book feels like an ode to the everyman of Ukraine. With a deft hand, it celebrates those who strive to heal when the world around them feels broken, and the bravery required to love against the odds.
The sort of ambitious debut novel that makes you sit up and take notice… announces an exciting new voice in fiction.
The Chicago Review of Books
Pickhart’s characters are rich and real, flawed and scared, brave and noble. They betray and they are betrayed, sexually and politically and in every other way… By telling stories of those who live in history but refuse to fully succumb to it, Pickhart recuperates the humanity of the people of Ukraine and celebrates their lives as human beings, not as footnotes to someone else’s history.
Since 1991, Ukraine has experienced three revolutions, and Pickhart elegantly captures how these events build up inside a person, giving many Ukrainians an acute awareness of the self as both agent and consequence of history.
Sonya Bilocerkowycz, author of On Our Way Home from the Revolution
Innovative, emotionally resonant, and deeply affecting, this is a more-than-promising debut from a very talented writer.
Kirkus, Starred review
Powerful debut … an impressive feat of empathy … a rich, multilayered story [that] will resonate with a wide range of readers, and provide illuminating insight for those hoping to learn more about the current conflict.
Pickhart’s story is powerful, boldly imaginative, rich in history and feeling, charged with events that have occurred since it was written – and which summon up the same force of the history that compelled an American author to write about this \”foreign land\”.
An innovative and compelling debut… I Will Die in a Foreign Land is an illuminating and worthwhile read.
The Irish Times
Imprint: Doubleday UK
Publication date: 22/09/2022
I Will Die in a Foreign Land
by Kalani Pickhart
Review by Livvy
This powerful and groundbreaking debut novel falls under my new favourite genre – educational fiction. That is, a story that transforms the boundaries of ordinary fiction, teaching its readers about significant ideologies, concepts and events. So, as well as being transformed by the story and prose, I also learned a lot. Win-win.
This is a formidable novel that provides important historical context to help readers understand the current events in Ukraine – with no prior knowledge required.
Most importantly, it humanises and depoliticises the war, bringing life and emotion to the characters who are living in what most of us would find unimaginable circumstances.