Saved By The Bang, is described as a “Nuclear Comedy” or a Dystopian Novel. I feel like the former is adept at describing this dark masterpiece. Saved By The Bang transports us to Gomel, Belarus in the 1980’s just prior to the Chernobyl Disaster. It centers on the Olenski family, prominent classical musicians and their daughter, Maryana. Neary takes us on a haunting and sometimes dark journey through the Soviet Union when it’s about to explode (figuratively and literally).
Told mostly through the eyes of Antonia Olenski, the matriarch and Maryana, the book feels like a Soap Opera of the best kind. Antonia is a true Diva and reigns as Queen of her domain at the conservatory. A health scare and the nuclear disaster of Chernobyl force her to flee to the Crimean for a summer and thus ends her reign. She spends the rest of her time trying to figure out how to regain her throne. Maryana is an awkward girl of 8 years old and is bullied by nearly everyone. She doesn’t wallow in it, she accepts it and thrives. She also gets really good at manipulating her father into getting her some great prizes in order to stay quiet about his “shenanigans”. The misadventures of the family continues throughout the decades and into the new millennium and covers eastern Europe and the United States.
While reading this story I found myself crying, laughing, and gasping; sometimes all in the same paragraph! I rooted for Maryana, tsk-tsked at her parents and grinned like a fool at the escapades everyone got up to. Even though it’s categorized as Dystopian and it’s fiction; I found it to be more of a coming of age novel. It read and felt very much like something from Frank McCourt or Jeanette Walls. I absolutely give this a 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for fans of Historical Fiction, Coming Of Age Literature, and Soap Opera Fans ;). If you like Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt or The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls then you must read this book!
Technically speaking the editing is good with very few errors (and this was an ARC copy) and the writer’s voice is polished and speaks with authority on the subject (which she should since she is writing about her hometown). At times I found it hard to believe it the characters were fiction. I would also advise that it’s NOT YA, a MATURE Audience is recommended.
***Just Spoke With The Author- MJ Neary just informed me that this piece is autobiographical…which makes it even better!***