Stork Mountain by Miroslav Penkov

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Stork Mountain by Miroslav Penkov

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Madeline Wheatley
Reviewed by Madeline Wheatley
Summary: Miroslav Penkov is a lyrical storyteller and his first full length novel, set in the Strandja Mountains in Bulgaria, is an intriguing successor to his collection of short stories East of the West
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 Date: March 2016
Publisher: Sceptre
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781473622180

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A young man, his grandfather and a stork with a broken wing are the company of rebels at the heart of this lively tale set in Bulgaria's Strandja Mountains. The storks that return to the mountains each spring are migrants, like so many of the people that have passed through the region over the centuries. The young narrator is also in transit, born in Bulgaria, but raised and educated in America. The story opens with his return to Bulgaria in search of his grandfather who has broken off contact with his family in America. But the young man's motives are not as clear cut as first appears.

The unnamed narrator finds a lot more than he bargained for. He is drawn into the life of the region, falling for a young Muslim girl and coming into contact with a mystical group called the nestinari. The nestinari are fire walkers, people whose heritage is part Christian religious fervour and part pagan cult. The nestinari's ritual fire walking can still be seen today in the Strandja region and their presence adds a fantastic aspect to the story, leading it into the territory of magical realism. Their history is related throughout the book, intertwined with stories of the many nationalities that have lived in the region. Penkov paints a picture of diverse political and religious views, which have given Bulgaria a fractured history with a people splintered by waves of change. A sense of things forming and then breaking apart runs through the novel.

I will return to this book to reread particular episodes and to enjoy its delicate and elegant design. Penkov is a wonderful storyteller and his writing is peppered with vivid vignettes. My one reservation was that I felt that his skill in framing a short story was in danger of overshadowing the delivery of a coherent longer novel, making the book quite a difficult read as a whole. That said, his vividly conceived characters and moments such as the tooth eating grandfather make this a memorable tale.

Further reading suggestions are Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie and Life According to Lubka by Laurie Graham.

Buy Stork Mountain by Miroslav Penkov at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Stork Mountain by Miroslav Penkov at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Stork Mountain by Miroslav Penkov at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Stork Mountain by Miroslav Penkov at Amazon.com.

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