Reviewed by Madeline Barbush

A wild journey through Hell, or the American dreamscape

Striking. Bold. Inventive. Yelena Moskovich is in a league of her own with A Door Behind a Door. 

Readers encounter characters like fragments of shattered glass, jagged on all sides—some images smudged, others crystal clear–reflecting the ruptured lives of its characters. 

A Door Behind a Door revolves first around Olga, who migrated to Milwaukee during the Soviet diaspora in 1991. While the prose reads poetic, often breaking line-by-line into short paragraphs with biting language, the story still reads as something we recognize. A woman is struggling to create a life which feels fulfilling to her. She has an American girlfriend, Angelina, who she dubs her “Angel,” and who instills in her a hope that she can become whole.

But the narrative starts to fragment when her past comes calling, by way of her former neighbor Nicky. She is soon pulled through a violent and haunted web of her fraught past as a young girl in the Soviet Union, and the wild present and future of a surreality that resembles a life in Hell.

Moskovich incites a deep distress in her novel’s reader—her characters are wretched and dark—but she also maintains a visceral sort of dark humor. One of her more wicked characters, Tanya, narrates a mall outing with her bestie Sveta, who she lusts after and hates simultaneously: “Eating her gooey cinnabon like a fucking bimbo.”

As the novel progresses, it floats on a sort of dreamscape. Storylines progress and halt, characters break through and die. In this experimentation and fragmentation, the author devises her own map of contemporary fiction. A Door Behind a Door gives you this strange sensation, like the lyricism and poetic flow becomes a sort of secret code to crack. We become fluent in the novel’s treatment of language, connecting first to the world of torment and second to the characters who traverse a fractured reality.

“To get you to Hell . . .they take you through America. There is a door behind a door.” 

For some, this novel will be about the challenges of the double life of an immigrant, caught in a web between cultures. For others, it’s a fable of the American effect—the promise of a new life but the haunting of the one you’ve left behind. In many ways, our characters are already in their own Hell, exhibiting a desperation, an anger, a pain, a frustration of wanting something so badly but never quite reaching it. Destiny may reveal itself but destroy what you’ve built so far. 

A Door Behind a Door can be read hundreds of times. The new discoveries and opportunities for interpretation won’t stop. And in the meantime, you’ll be maneuvering through prose so poetic and sharp that you’ll long to put the fragment in your pocket, to bring with you toward whatever new life emerges after the experience. Moskovich will leave one door cracked open for you, and slam another in your face. She leads you down a hall with door after door. Some are locked without a key; some need a code; a “Do Not Disturb” sign hangs on a doorknob, but in Moskovich’s world, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go in.   

Publisher: Two Dollar Radio

Genre: Literary Fiction / Surrealism

Print Length: 188 pages

ISBN: 978-1953387028


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