Mother Doll A Novel

Mother Doll

A Novel

  • ISBN: 9781419770951
  • Publication Date: March 12, 2024


Price: $28.00

Zhenia is adrift in Los Angeles, pregnant with a baby her husband doesn’t want, while her Russian grandmother and favorite person in the world is dying on the opposite coast. She’s deeply disconnected from herself and her desires when she gets a strange call from Paul, a psychic medium who usually specializes in channeling dead pets, with a message from the other side. Zhenia’s great-grandmother Irina, a Russian Revolutionary, has approached him from a cloud of ancestral grief, desperate to tell her story and receive absolution from Zhenia.

As Irina begins her confession with the help of a purgatorial chorus of grieving Russian ghosts, Zhenia awakens to aspects of herself she hadn’t been willing to confront. But does either woman have what the other needs to understand their predicament? Or will Irina be stuck in limbo, with Zhenia plagued by ancestral trauma, and her children after her?

Punctuated with Katya Apekina’s “wry observations and wicked sense of humor” (Los Angeles Times), Mother Doll is a family epic and meditation on motherhood, immigration, identity, and war. Apekina’s second novel “is not only a harrowing examination of generational trauma, but a damn funny one" (Vogue, Best Books of 2024).


“Apekina brilliantly balances the bizarre with the mundane . . . Mother Doll isn’t a ghost story but a meticulously layered tale of fabulist historical fiction . . . The novel’s unusual plot mechanics are sustained by [Apekina’s] wry observations and wicked sense of humor.”

“Katya Apekina has a way of writing and managing the most devastating experiences of her characters with a lightness that never detracts from the profound weight of her bigger project . . . [H]er descriptions are so frank, so astute and so smart, I'm put at ease, thinking, ‘Here I am in a world that has been observed and transmitted to me so keenly, it feels absolutely real.’ But then she makes these audacious, dangerous moves in the story that are just boggling and fantastic, and I think, ‘This is new, this is magical, and yet this feels absolutely real too.’”
—OTTESSA MOSHFEGH, Los Angeles Times

“Apekina’s keen portrayals of morally complicated women transcend any gimmickry, and her depictions of Petrograd in the early 20th century feel startlingly present. Like the Russian nesting dolls that inspired it, this novel reveals layer after layer of poignant delights.”

“Apekina turns the multigenerational family saga on its head with this sharply original and surprisingly witty tale of a young woman in contemporary Los Angeles, her dying grandmother in New York City, and their ancestor in revolutionary Russia. The result is a provocative vision of a world in which past and present are not as neatly separated as they appear.”

“A sharp, strange, and surprisingly funny novel.”

"Apekina’s novel is not only a harrowing examination of generational trauma, but a damn funny one. Filled with sex, revolution, mediumship, and the occasional salient Russian historical figure, Mother Doll is a gripping read from the very first sentence."
—VOGUE, The Best Books of 2024 So Far

"Delightful . . . This is an intergenerational family novel that manages to be mesmerizing in every storyline. A compelling combination of Russian Doll and Search Party."

“Katya Apekina is a writer of fiction who approaches dark and dense historical subject matters with fluid energy and wit, and with an imaginative current that sweeps her narratives into the realms of magic realism. Her second novel . . . is an even more expansive and fragmented family chronicle, split between twentieth-century Russia and contemporary America.”

“A startlingly sharp and affecting novel, exploring notions of motherhood, desire, and possession…Mother Doll displays a…defiance of norms as it deftly tangles with history and memory and generational trauma.”

“Spellbinding . . . The novel’s intricate game of loyalties [keeps] the reader’s sympathies for the characters in flux. What’s remarkable is how much we end up feeling for all of them.”

"A moving reflection on motherhood, immigration, identity, and the timeless connection between women across generations."
—WORLD LITERATURE TODAY, A Booklist for Mother's Day

“[Mother Doll] is — and I don’t say this lightly — a total triumph . . . It’s the funniest book you will ever read about matrilineal intergenerational trauma, the Soviet orphanage to domestic terrorism pipeline, and unconventional family-making. I was deeply affected by how Apekina captured the ache of living between worlds, and how we pass that ache on to our children, whether we know it or not. And, like my very favorite books, the language is arresting.”

“A Russian doll of a novel, Katya Apekina traces the inherited beauty and trauma of four generations of Russian mothers and daughters in this hallucinatory, moving novel that has everything from psychic mediums to a chorus of grieving ghosts.”
—NYLON, Must-Reads of March 2024

“Triumphant . . . For those who enjoy diving into the metaphorical, Mother Doll holds a deep wisdom. [W]itty and compellingly relatable . . .  [Apekina] hits on something beautifully innate: Who are we if not the histories of our ancestors?”

“Imagining the afterlife has resulted in unforgettable recent novels like George Saunders’s Lincoln in the Bardo. Apekina’s hallucinatory use of occult communications transforms historical facts and emotional trauma into a phantasmagorical fable of Zhenia’s and Irina’s spiritual journeys. Balancing raucous hilarity with embedded pain, it may be the year’s weirdest one-of-a-kind read.”
—LIBRARY JOURNAL, Barbara Conaty

"Apekina, who is a Russ­ian Jew­ish immi­grant her­self, brings wit and vir­tu­os­i­ty to this twisty tale of inter­gen­er­a­tional trauma."

“Profoundly poignant and deeply moving, garnished with chortles and cackles along the way, Mother Doll is a novel whose heartbeat reverberates beyond its written words.”
—STYLECASTER, Most Anticipated Books of 2024, Greg Mania

“Stories exist inside of other stories in this inventive novel, much like the vibrantly colorful nesting dolls that are a Russian tradition. Apekina’s sentences are richly layered with Russian history and culture.”

"Katya Apekina has crafted an enormously compassionate tale of family relationships, immigration, and war.”

“In this remarkable novel, Katya Apekina unpacks a dizzying nested series of intergenerational traumas and intergenerational gifts. Spellbinding, hallucinatory, and very funny, Mother Doll feels at once deeply researched, deeply felt, and deeply imagined—a rare achievement.”
—ELIF BATUMAN, author of The Idiot, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize

“Masterful[…] Apekina [is] one of the most original novelists working today.”

“I’ve been a fan of Katya Apekina since her first novel, the delightful and brilliant The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish. Her second, Mother Doll, is just as strange, wild, offbeat, and hilarious as her first, a profoundly moving story about maternity, inherited grief and joy, and the way that the children that mothers bear inside them must, in turn, bear the collective weight of their ancestors. I absolutely loved it.”
—LAUREN GROFF, New York Times bestselling author of Matrix and Fates and Furies

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