A new breathtaking novel from Natalie Standiford about love and trust during the Cold War.
Laura Reid goes to Leningrad for a semester abroad as Cold War paranoia is peaking in 1982. She meets a young Russian artist named Alexei and soon, with Alexei as her guide, Laura immerses herself in the real Russia–a crazy world of wild parties, black-market books and music, and smuggled letters to dissidents. She must keep the relationship secret; associating with Americans is dangerous for Alexei, and if caught, Laura could be sent home and Alexei put under surveillance or worse. At the same time, she’s been warned that Soviets often latch onto Americans in hopes of marrying them and thus escaping to the United States. But she knows Alexei loves her. Right?
As June approaches–when Laura must return to the United States–Alexei asks Laura to marry him. She’s only nineteen and doesn’t think she’s ready to settle down. But what if Alexei is the love of her life? How can she leave him behind? If she has a chance to change his life, to rescue him from misery, shouldn’t she take it? – Goodreads
I recently went to YALLfest which messed with Tina because I was an hour ahead of her. It’s one of my favorite things of traveling, it messes with Tina’s brain because she hates when I’m an hour ahead of her. The reason I’m bringing this up is because at YALLfest I had the chance to meet the lovely Natalie Standiford. Natalie was super nice and friendly and made me really excited to read this book. My TBR list is super long and I didn’t have the chance to read The Boy on the Bridge before YALLfest. After meeting Natalie, I couldn’t wait to read this book. My plane ride to DFW was a fast moving journey for me thanks to this book.
I was engrossed in the story of Laura and Alexei. It’s 1982. It’s bleak. It’s the USSR during the height of the cold war. Laura was always fascinated by the Russian language and took the chance to go to the USSR for a study aboard trip. During this study aboard trip she comes to figure out how different the USSR really, truly is. She also finds out how she is seen as a novelty. Laura is the girl from the United States, she holds a power to many of her Russian and eastern block friends that she never had before. She’s a simple girl from Baltimore, it is weird to her to be seen as someone with “power.” But she does hold a power: freedom.
While Alexei and Laura have a very innocent meeting on a bridge it quickly becomes a whirlwind relationship. She is going to teach him English, he will teach her Russian, but ultimately they fall in love. Quick, fast, dirty love. Alexei wants to get married. Laura can take him to America and they can live in San Francisco together. All of her friends in Russia are telling her that this is a horrible idea. Her two chaperones/professors are telling her that this is a horrible idea and she isn’t seeing straight. As the reader it is clear that this is a horrible idea. But Laura is 19 and in love. To her it is a genius idea. Slowly however the plan starts to fall apart and the ending truly isn’t that shocking. Even if I hoped it would turn out differently, it really couldn’t. But it made me content. Even if I wanted to hug Laura tightly.
In our talk at YALLfest, Natalie brought up that she wrote about her real life inspiration in the New York Times. I’m extremely glad that I read that article post reading the book. Not that it would have changed my opinion on the book, because it wouldn’t have, but because I was able to see parts of Natalie in Laura’s story, but also see how Laura and Natalie are completely different, too.