Horodno Burning Is Both Timeless AND Timely


“Michael Freed-Thall's Horodno Burning is a beautifully textured, epic historical novel with an ending that will simultaneously break your heart and inspire you to live life to the fullest. With courageous, noble, and big-hearted characters at its center, Horodno Burning takes readers on a journey through turbulent and dramatic times and into a rich and stirring account of Jewish history. Readers of historical fiction who look for strong female characters at the spine will be enraptured by this exquisite debut.”

—Stephanie Storey, bestselling author of Oil and Marble and Raphael, Painter in Rome

“I love Horodno Burning, an unflinching, courageous book about loving great books during the horrors of the late nineteenth-century Russian pogroms. These foreshadowed the twentieth century, the waves of antisemitism, racism, and hate that still wash up on our borders and shores, the ease with which too many still project their shadows upon refugees and vulnerable others simply trying to live.  Richly drawn, deeply compassionate and moving—a book about how words and stories can change us, save us, give us hope, make us more human, more humane—Horodno Burning is truly a great book.”

—Lex Williford, author of Macauley’s Thumb, winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award, and Superman on the Roof, which won the Rose Metal Press Flash Fiction Award

“Thoughtful, powerful, and tender, Horodno Burning brings to life the conflicts and contradictions of family life and political activism in the Pale of Settlement, beginning with the story of a religious boy who cannot read and a girl who loves books and wants equality for women. Living with the constant threat of violence in the late nineteenth-century Russian Empire, Bernard and Esther search for ways to resist the prejudice and hatred and build a family. Michael Freed-Thall offers a moving story about human persistence and hope despite brutality, and about the power of storytelling to fight injustice. Horodno Burning is both timeless and timely.”

—Ellen Meeropol, author of Her Sister’s Tattoo

Horodno Burning is a wonderful novel—rich and engaging and beautifully written. It moves so well, as details of locations, events, and personalities provide a vivid backdrop to the fiction. Estes, a free-thinking feminist before her time, and Bernard, a religious vodka distiller, will stay with the reader after the last page, along with the deep insights and humanity that emerge in the face of trauma and prejudice. A superb debut novel.”

—Bernie Lambek, author of Uncivil Liberties, 2018 Foreword INDIES award winner

“What is the price of courage in the face of antisemitism? I strongly recommend Horodno Burning for anyone interested in rich details of everyday life at a tumultuous time in Jewish and Russian history. This novel will also appeal to readers who wonder how to live a life with integrity when threatened with censure and violence, and to those who question whether love can surmount differences in faith and political belief.”

—Maryka Biaggio, author of Parlor Games and Eden Waits

“Under a cloud of looming danger in the late nineteenth-century Pale of Settlement, the vivid and sympathetic protagonists of Michael Freed-Thall’s novel Horodno Burning try to build lives of safety, meaning, and purpose. As antisemitism and violence grow around them, Estes and Bernard face harrowing choices. This gripping novel brings history to life.”

—David Ebenbach, author of the novel How to Mars and the creativity guide The Artist’s Torah

“What a tremendous book! The prose is brilliant and tender in this absorbing debut novel.

The struggles of Estes and Bernard as wife and husband and as young parents during a time of massive cultural change are universal, yet Horodno Burning is an invitation into a particular place and time, placing the reader in the heart of a community on the cusp of a great migration. Epic in scope, intimate in detail, Horodno Burning is historical fiction at its finest. I was so very moved and astonished by this story.”

—Julie Christine Johnson, author of The Crows of Beara and In Another Life

 “What an incredible novel! Experiencing these characters—their struggles and love for each other and their reverence for books—was a balm in this difficult time. I will never forget Estes and Bernard who show us that even in times of deep pain, precious books can speak to our souls. In Horodno Burning, Michael Freed-Thall has gifted us such a book.”

—Diane Zinna, author of The All-Night Sun