Between Dog and Wolf


Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry
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Moscow, 1985. Four teenagers – Anya, Milka, Petya and Aleksey, whose lives, like those of their Western counterparts, are fuelled by sex, alcohol and cigarettes – yearn for a world of Levi’s, Queen, foreign travel and the freedom to choose their fates. Instead, they encounter heartbreak and tragedy, while all around them Soviet policies, cruel but familiar, are giving way to untested concepts such as glasnost and perestroika and a brief flourishing of hope before the next repressive regime take root.

This is the hour between dog and wolf, twilight, when one state has ended and another has not quite begun.

Although it depicts a chaotic and desperate era, this exceptional debut novel pulsates with life. It is radiant with friendship and love, the power of international literature, values and politics, as its characters struggle to survive, to save their country and one another.


‘At last, from Russia, the voice of a woman of my generation, writing in Between Dog and Wolf of dancing with other girls at school discos before Brezhnev died, of learning to love in a cold climate, and of navigating the choppy waters of the past. I so enjoyed this novel.’
Sara Wheeler, author of Mud and Stars: Travels with Pushkin and Other Geniuses of the Golden Age

‘Achingly sad.’
— New York Post

‘Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry shows us what it was like to be a teenager – full of friendship, love and hormones – during the chaos of perestroika. What a decade: so many different communist leaders, the collapse of an empire, terrifying coups, and the growth of powerful oligarchs. Full of heartbreak, beautifully written. I swallowed it up.’
— Suzanne Joinson, author of A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar

Between Dog and Wolf depicts friendship with all the passionate intensity of a Ferrante novel – against the rich encyclopaedic detail of late Soviet life.’
— Sasha Dugdale, writer and translator, including In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova

‘A timeless tale of memory, desire, dreams lost and altered, love changed and unchanged.’
Yiyun Li, author of Must I Go

‘A remarkable novel. Gorcheva-Newberry combines a timeless story of loss and longing with a viscerally personal account of Russia’s recent past. Fizzing with life as much as it is suffused with unbearable sadness, the book perfectly captures the discombobulations of perestroika: the hope and the disappointment of the new – and a yearning for what might have been.
— Ben Noble, author of Navalny: Putin’s Nemesis, Russia’s Future?

‘[A] Stunning debut . . . Gorcheva-Newberry pulls off a tragic and nostalgic love letter to a much-tried generation. This is a winner.’
Publishers weekly (starred review)

‘Gorcheva-Newberry does the reader a great service, offering a peek behind the iron curtain and its veil of propoganda . . . If there is such a thing as clear-eyed sentimentality, Between Dog and Wolf evokes it.’
Bookpage (starred review)

‘Gorcheva-Newberry conveys the poignance of adolescent urgency with a poet’s elliptical dash Between Dog and Wolf is a great pleasure.’
— Christine Schutt, author of Pure Hollywood

‘One system yields to another that ends up looking mighty similar to the one that came before, and with each upheaval comes a steep price that citizens are forced to pay. Gorcheva-Newberry beautifully renders these historical trends using Chekhov as a blueprint in this moving, tragic, and distinctly Russian tale.’
Harvard Review

‘An intensely evocative and gorgeously written coming-of-age story.’
Minneapolis Star Tribune (Starred)

‘In Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry’s debut, it is the children of the Perestroika generation who offer lived stories of growth and survival despite a destabilized world.’
Caitlin Stout, Chicago Review of Books

‘A magnificent story about the desperate times of Generation Perestroika . . . Rich with imagery . . . A tour de force.’
Mark Zvonkovic, Midwest Book Review

‘Every reader knows what it’s like to lose a friend, but not everyone knows the loss of a nation. Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry knows both. Her novel immerses us in the tense, passionate, bloody best friendship of two unforgettable young women in the last years of the Soviet state. It is aching and sexy, clear-eyed and heartbreaking, honest and necessary. You will devour it. Between Dog and Wolf is an exquisite, explosive debut.’
Julia Phillips, author of Disappearing Earth

‘Charming and tragic, hopeful and disillusioned, profoundly intimate and sensitive to history, Between Dog and Wolf evokes Soviet perestroika in all its contradictions. With exquisite lyricism, Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry recalls what it meant to grow up in Moscow in the 1980s, when both she and her nation were on the cusp of unknowable futures.’
Ken Kalfus, author of Envy and 2 A.M. in Little America

‘A beautiful portrayal of life lived in enormous change and upheaval, rooted in the history of a vast country. It is a novel worth of the master, Chekhov, whose great play we see echoed in it.’
Richard Bausch, author of Peace

‘Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry has given us a deeply personal coming-of-age story with the unapologetic sensuality and impressive scope of a Gabriel García Márquez novel . . . This is a sublime novel.’
Christine Sneed, author of The Virginity of Famous Men and Paris, He Said

‘Beautiful novelistic debut . . . Gorcheva-Newberry is among the most subtle and evocative writers I have read in many years. This novel is a gem, and its author is a major new voice in contemporary fiction. This may be the first time you’ve heard of her. But it will not be the last.’
Steve Yarborough, author of The Unmade World

‘Extraordinary. Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry delivers an electrifying novel, brimming with passion, pathos, and searing insights into Russia’s turbulent and richly-textured past. I literally didn’t want the novel to end.’
Jennifer Cody Epstein, author of Wunderland

‘Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry exquisitely chronicles the pervasive losses and loves of her four unforgettable ‘perestroika generation’ characters. Between Dog and Wolf is a fitting homage to the great Chekhov himself.’
Cristina García, author of Here in Berlin and Dreaming in Cuban

Published: 19 October 2023
ISBN: 978-1911648659
Cover design: © Luke Bird
Front cover photograph: © Simon Knott
Dimensions: B format paperback with flaps
Length: 384 pages

Publicist: Claire Maxwell at Read Media
Agent: Jessica Bullock at The Wylie Agency
Foreign rights: The Marsh Agency

Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry was born in Armenia and raised in Soviet Russia. She moved to the USA in 1995, after having witnessed perestroika and the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Writing in English, her second language, Kristina has published fifty stories and received ten Pushcart prize nominations. She is the winner of the Raz/Shumaker Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction for her debut collection of stories, What Isn’t Remembered, long-listed for the 2022 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize and shortlisted for the 2022 William Saroyan International Prize.

Between Dog and Wolf, published to rapturous reviews in the USA as The Orchard, is her first novel.

Between Dog and Wolf

Milka Putova and I had been friends since the first grade, which was pretty much for as long as I could remember. She was short and thin like a sprat, and every boy in our class called her exactly that—Sprat. She had small acorn-brown eyes, set too far apart and slanted—a result of one hundred and fifty years of the Tatar-Mongol yoke, as she often joked. Her face was broad and pale, her pulpy lips raspberry red, especially in winter, after we’d been sledding or building forts all after- noon, snow crusted on our knees and elbows, our bangs and eyelashes bleached with frost. We lived on the outskirts of Moscow and tramped to school together, across a vast virgin field sprawled around us like white satin. She’d walk first through knee-deep snow, wearing wool tights and felt boots, threading her legs in and out, and I’d trudge after her, stepping in her footprints. She ’d halt and scribble our names in the snow with her gloved finger—Milka + Anya—and on the way back we ’d rush to check whether the letters were still there.

Milka’s hair was dark gold, straight and silky, cut in a neat bob around her jaw. She shampooed her hair every day, and I could smell it when we sat next to each other during classes, the delicate scent of apple blossoms resurrecting our summer months at my parents’ dacha. How we’d sauntered through a corn maze, the stalks three times taller than we were, fingering green husks, separating soft, luscious silk to check on the size and ripeness of ears. Or how we roamed birch and aspen groves and gathered mushrooms for soup, their fragile trunks buried in grass, their red and orange caps burning under the trees like gems. Or how we swam in the river, racing to the other side and back and then climbing a muddy bank and drying off on towels, motionless like sunbaked frogs—bellies up.

At ten, we hadn’t yet begun wearing bikini tops or shying behind bushes while changing swimsuits. We touched each other’s faces, and shoulders, and nonexistent breasts, compared hands and feet, the length of our toes and fingers, noses, eyelashes, the colour and shape of our nipples. We counted moles and freckles, mosquito bites and scratches, searching for hidden birthmarks, grey hairs, some sign of indisputable distinction. We lazed in a hammock, suspended between the porch railing and a single pine tree, or threaded wild strawberries on long straws and sucked them off in one ravaging movement, our tongues, our mouths magenta foam. We carved our names into birch trunks so fat, so mighty, our arms wouldn’t close when we hugged them. We trapped crickets in glass jars or matchboxes, which we placed under pillows for good luck, setting the bugs free in the morning; we made wishes while watching the full moon like an amber brooch pinned low in the sky. We longed for prettier dresses and Zolushka’s crystal shoes and a fairy godmother to turn our dingy flats into splendid castles. At the dacha, we opened the bedroom window and stared into the darkness coalescing around us. The apple trees were bearing their first tiny sour fruit. The trees swayed their branches and threw trembling shadows on the ground, and we would sprawl halfway out of the window to touch their young tender leaves.

At eleven, we still played with dolls. Some were missing limbs; others had lost lashes and hair; all had patches of skin scraped and dulled by the years of dressing and undressing, incessant bathing. We owned no male dolls but a set of tin soldiers I begged my mother to buy. The soldiers were disproportionally small, which made perfect sense to us because most of the boys in our class were shorter than the girls. We protected the soldiers fiercely, and not because they were fewer in number and cost more, but because they seemed so delicate to us and some- how helpless, in need of nurturing and reassurance. We handled the soldiers with care and stowed them in their box every evening.

Sometimes we pretended that the soldiers had just returned from the war to their wives and girlfriends. Then we would strip them naked and lay their stiff cold bodies on top of the pink plastic ones and rub the figures together as hard as we could.

“Do you think she ’s pregnant by now?” Milka would ask.

“Maybe. How long does it usually take?”

“Don’t know. Let’s rub some more,” she’d say, and slide her doll back and forth under my soldier.

Oddly, I was always in charge of the males, and Milka the females. My soldier would lean in to kiss Milka’s girl doll, his lips so small, so hard against her curvy painted ones. Neither tin nor plastic participant had genitals, of course, but we pretended that they did, and Milka would even take a soldier’s hand and touch it to the doll’s belly and legs, the thick impenetrable place in between. Or she would press the soldier’s face there. At that age, I still had no idea that oral sex existed, but Milka seemed sure in her gestures.

That year, Milka and I began studying our bodies in the mirror, anticipating all the womanly changes my mother cautioned us about when my dad wasn’t in the room. Milka’s father had died in a car wreck when she was a baby, and her mother remarried soon afterwards. Milka rarely talked about her family, except that both her mother and her stepfather worked in a fish-canning factory, and so their clothes and their hair smelled like dead seaweed. “Even their skin smells like it,” she would say. “Rotten.”

“Why do they never come to school?” I asked once.

“Because then the whole building would have to be sanitized,” she said, and snuck her bony tickling fingers under my shirt. I yelped and smacked her hands and whirled on my toes. She laughed, that grainy, openmouthed laugh of hers, her teeth so straight and white as though brushed with snow.

The New York Post, 17 December 2022: Best books of 2022: Top 30 must-read titles of the year

The New York Post, 13 October 2022: Favourites from Priyanka Chopra-Jonas

The Harvard Review, 5 July 2022: Review by Olive Fellows

Tipsy Tolstoy, Ep 56: Russian Literature for the Inebriated

Washington Independent Review of Books, 24 May 2022: Interview with Cathy Alter

Blue Ridge PBS: Write around the corner, interview with Rose Martin

Radio IQ, 11 May 2022: Interview with Luke Church 

All of It, WNYC New York Public Radio, 6 April 2022: Interview with Alison Stewart

WFIR New Talk Radio, 4 May 2o22: Interview with Gene Marrano

Christine Sneed, 20 April 2022: Interview with Christine Sneed

BookPage, 15 March 2022: Starred review by Thane Tierney

Publishers Weekly, 12 August 2o21: Starred Review

New York Post, 17 December 2023: Best Books of 2022: Top 30 must-read title of the year

Midwest Book Review, March 2022: Review by Mark Zvonkovic

Chicago Review of Books, September 2022: Review by Caitlin Stout

Minneapolis Star Tribune, 11 March 2022: Review by Cory Oldweiler


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