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Little Foxes Took Up Matches

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When Mitya was two years old, he swallowed his grandmother’s sewing needle. For his family, it marks the beginning of the end, the promise of certain death. For Mitya, it is a small, metal treasure that guides him from within. As he grows, his life mirrors the uncertain future of his country, which is attempting to rebuild itself after the collapse of the Soviet Union, tor When Mitya was two years old, he swallowed his grandmother’s sewing needle. For his family, it marks the beginning of the end, the promise of certain death. For Mitya, it is a small, metal treasure that guides him from within. As he grows, his life mirrors the uncertain future of his country, which is attempting to rebuild itself after the collapse of the Soviet Union, torn between its past and the promise of modern freedom. Mitya finds himself facing a different sort of ambiguity: is he a boy, as everyone keeps telling him, or is he not quite a boy, as he often feels? After suffering horrific abuse from his cousin Vovka who has returned broken from war, Mitya embarks on a journey across underground Moscow to find something better, a place to belong. His experiences are interlaced with a retelling of a foundational Russian fairytale, Koschei the Deathless, offering an element of fantasy to the brutal realities of Mitya’s everyday life. Told with deep empathy, humor, and a bit of surreality, Little Foxes Took Up Matches is a revelation about the life of one community in a country of turmoil and upheaval, glimpsed through the eyes of a precocious and empathetic child, whose heart and mind understand that there are often more than two choices. An arresting coming of age, an exploration of gender, a modern folktale, a comedy about family, Katya Kazbek breaks out as a new voice to watch.


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When Mitya was two years old, he swallowed his grandmother’s sewing needle. For his family, it marks the beginning of the end, the promise of certain death. For Mitya, it is a small, metal treasure that guides him from within. As he grows, his life mirrors the uncertain future of his country, which is attempting to rebuild itself after the collapse of the Soviet Union, tor When Mitya was two years old, he swallowed his grandmother’s sewing needle. For his family, it marks the beginning of the end, the promise of certain death. For Mitya, it is a small, metal treasure that guides him from within. As he grows, his life mirrors the uncertain future of his country, which is attempting to rebuild itself after the collapse of the Soviet Union, torn between its past and the promise of modern freedom. Mitya finds himself facing a different sort of ambiguity: is he a boy, as everyone keeps telling him, or is he not quite a boy, as he often feels? After suffering horrific abuse from his cousin Vovka who has returned broken from war, Mitya embarks on a journey across underground Moscow to find something better, a place to belong. His experiences are interlaced with a retelling of a foundational Russian fairytale, Koschei the Deathless, offering an element of fantasy to the brutal realities of Mitya’s everyday life. Told with deep empathy, humor, and a bit of surreality, Little Foxes Took Up Matches is a revelation about the life of one community in a country of turmoil and upheaval, glimpsed through the eyes of a precocious and empathetic child, whose heart and mind understand that there are often more than two choices. An arresting coming of age, an exploration of gender, a modern folktale, a comedy about family, Katya Kazbek breaks out as a new voice to watch.

30 review for Little Foxes Took Up Matches

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jasmine

    Little Foxes Took Up Matches is a sometimes dark, sometimes sweet queer coming-of-age tale. Mitya was just two when he swallowed his grandmother’s sewing needle. His family believes that it will eventually harm him irreparably. But Mitya thinks it will keep him safe. Mitya is too young to remember what his country was like before the Soviet Union collapsed. His family often misses the old days, stating that they were better times for their family. But Mitya couldn’t say for sure because his worl Little Foxes Took Up Matches is a sometimes dark, sometimes sweet queer coming-of-age tale. Mitya was just two when he swallowed his grandmother’s sewing needle. His family believes that it will eventually harm him irreparably. But Mitya thinks it will keep him safe. Mitya is too young to remember what his country was like before the Soviet Union collapsed. His family often misses the old days, stating that they were better times for their family. But Mitya couldn’t say for sure because his world is limited to his family’s apartment in the middle of Moscow. As he grows older, he begins to dabble in his mother’s cosmetics when no one is around and explores his own gender identity. After suffering abuse from his older cousin, Mitya decides to see more of the outside world. He befriends an unhoused man who has ravens as his constant companions. He wanders underground Moscow and sees the brutal effects that war has had on its citizens. He endeavours to make sense of everything and find his place in a country trying to rebuild itself while still dealing with corruption and violence. This is a beautiful but grim story that I took my time reading. It was also a bit odd reading this, given the current situation. Mitya is a character that will stick with this reader for sometime to come. Also, can we have a moment for that stunning cover? CW: child sexual and physical abuse. Thank you to Tin House for providing an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. https://booksandwheels.com

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Lawson

    Dark but fascinating. A queer, punk-rock, Russian coming-of-age novel.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Miya (pain at a peak, excuse slow responses)

    Surpringly very interesting and unique. I really wasn't expecting this to be so captivating, but I liked it a lot! Surpringly very interesting and unique. I really wasn't expecting this to be so captivating, but I liked it a lot!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    happy pub day to this!!! you can purchase your copy at any indie bookstore or store that sells books! thank you NetGalley and Tin House Books for this Advanced Reader's Copy in exchange for my honest opinion. In this brilliantly written novel, Katya Kazbek writes a beautiful coming of age story that makes you sit and your chair and not want to stop reading. Encompassing the entire book with characters you can empathize with, this book is one to definitely re-read. I really enjoyed the different cha happy pub day to this!!! you can purchase your copy at any indie bookstore or store that sells books! thank you NetGalley and Tin House Books for this Advanced Reader's Copy in exchange for my honest opinion. In this brilliantly written novel, Katya Kazbek writes a beautiful coming of age story that makes you sit and your chair and not want to stop reading. Encompassing the entire book with characters you can empathize with, this book is one to definitely re-read. I really enjoyed the different character dynamics and the family relationships. This amazing, intriguing, queer fairy tale is one you'd definitely want to read. A coming-of-age story mixed with literary aspects and family dynamics, check, please! As we follow our main character, Mitya, through his self-discovery, we get more and more sucked into this story and it just brings you into this world of fantasy and Mitya's life. With parallel chapters acting as Mitya's dreams, this book gives context and closure that you are waiting for throughout the entire book. all in all: a good read, probably will read again very soon. 3.5 stars. ---------------------- currently reading updates let me give you some background first before i begin to talk. ok, so I'm part Ukrainian and part Jewish. meaning that half of my family is from Ukraine and the other Israel. So half of my family can relate to this so hard and the other not. I can not even count on my hands the amount of times I've been called a “durak,” which means idiot in Russian. i know a little bit of Russian so it makes the experience so much funnier and better. anyways that’s all i wanted to say. other than that though, this has been quite interesting. idk why GoodReads says I've read this twice but idc cus it adds another book to my reading goal.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kim Lockhart

    Thank you to Tin House Books for providing an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review. I'm generally fascinated by Russian history and culture, and this did not disappoint. The blend of styles is refreshingly inventive. The story weaves together the main character's painful grasping toward individual identity, with the painful emerging of the entire country's identity, after the fall of the Soviet Union. The narrative unfolds on two tracks: one more straightforward, and the other a fi Thank you to Tin House Books for providing an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review. I'm generally fascinated by Russian history and culture, and this did not disappoint. The blend of styles is refreshingly inventive. The story weaves together the main character's painful grasping toward individual identity, with the painful emerging of the entire country's identity, after the fall of the Soviet Union. The narrative unfolds on two tracks: one more straightforward, and the other a figurative reflection of those same events, told in the folkloric style of dark fable. The symmetry is surprisingly crisp. The author employs what I term an economy of detail: including every element required for emotional impact, without weighing down the narrative. The theme which most ties the story together is one of bravery, especially the kinds of bravery not usually associated with being heroic: the bravery to risk revelation of one's authentic vulnerable self, the bravery to seek justice no matter the cost, the bravery to break the power of shame and talk about the unspeakable, regardless of consequences. The worst thing we can do is to pretend things aren't as they are. It's only with brave recognition, that a person, or a people, may move forward.

  6. 4 out of 5

    LONELY TOURIST

    Oh, gosh. It took me longer than usual to get through this ARC, but only because I wanted to spend all the time with the story --- stories, rather --- that it deserved. It's everything I used to long for in a fairy tale. Kind of like the feeling I got as a kid reading Frances Hodgson Burnett's books, except with a lot of exploration of gender and identity and also, like... feasible pathways to healing from trauma that don't involve being suddenly adopted by a rich guy. So maybe not that similar, Oh, gosh. It took me longer than usual to get through this ARC, but only because I wanted to spend all the time with the story --- stories, rather --- that it deserved. It's everything I used to long for in a fairy tale. Kind of like the feeling I got as a kid reading Frances Hodgson Burnett's books, except with a lot of exploration of gender and identity and also, like... feasible pathways to healing from trauma that don't involve being suddenly adopted by a rich guy. So maybe not that similar, other than in my heart. But all the same! (view spoiler)[I do feel I should mention a content warning for child sexual assault, which is handled respectably but always an unpleasant surprise. (hide spoiler)]

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Umbaugh

    Multi-layered and absorbing, this tender, yet disturbing coming of age novel is a look into contemporary Russia, emerging gender identification, friendship and family. Part brilliant fable and part mystery, I consumed this wonderful novel in just a few sittings. My guess is this novel will find a wide audience with readers on the cutting edge of new literary fiction. My thanks to Net Galley for the ARC

  8. 5 out of 5

    Candace

    There’s a Russian children’s poem about animals rebelling against their usual behavior: “Little foxes took up matches, And set the azure sea ablaze.” This explains the novel’s unusual title as well as the kinds of changes going on in young Mitya’s life. Born in the last years of the USSR, an only child squeezed into a tiny apartment with his parents and grandmother, Mitya is left alone a lot. This is where he discovers the joy of making up his face and dressing like his favorite TV characters. Ru There’s a Russian children’s poem about animals rebelling against their usual behavior: “Little foxes took up matches, And set the azure sea ablaze.” This explains the novel’s unusual title as well as the kinds of changes going on in young Mitya’s life. Born in the last years of the USSR, an only child squeezed into a tiny apartment with his parents and grandmother, Mitya is left alone a lot. This is where he discovers the joy of making up his face and dressing like his favorite TV characters. Russian folk stories weave their way throughout, and as Mitya gets a little older, so do stories of the New Russia. His only friend is a street drunk who takes care of ravens with elegant old-world names. Mitya feels comfortable enough with him to appear dressed as Devchonka, which his homeless friend takes with rather graceful stride. When the homeless man vanishes, Mitya enters a new world as he tries to find out what happened. And he wants to be away from home as much as he can be since his Chechen War veteran cousin has moved in and now shares a bed with him. Mitya is raped and knows it is only the first time. The new world he finds includes teenagers, thugs, music, people who get him, and people who don’t. He finds people respond more warmly to ethereal Devchonka than pale and weedy Mitya, makes friends, hears new rock. Katya Kazbek’s writing style is sly and humorous with flinty points of pain. Her use of Russian folk tales is crafty, clever, and moving, illuminating Mitya and Russia’s post-Soviet journey. Katya’s writing is a delight, and “Little Foxes” is, too. Thanks to Tin House and Edelweiss for access to this marvellous title!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Cait McKay

    Mitya has some stories for you.  Much like Mitya himself, this novel contains multitudes. Katya Kazbek, who often works as a translator, holds the door open for the curious reader with snippets of fairy tales. Sometimes these tales are her takes on mythology, and sometimes they are the mythology of being a teenager: stolen booze, punk shows in abandoned buildings, utterly frightening sexual situations, and putting on your mom's makeup while she's at work.  This novel called to me with a single ima Mitya has some stories for you.  Much like Mitya himself, this novel contains multitudes. Katya Kazbek, who often works as a translator, holds the door open for the curious reader with snippets of fairy tales. Sometimes these tales are her takes on mythology, and sometimes they are the mythology of being a teenager: stolen booze, punk shows in abandoned buildings, utterly frightening sexual situations, and putting on your mom's makeup while she's at work.  This novel called to me with a single image. I didn't need to know anything else; I had to read it.  What can I say? If a cover hints at Ivan Bilibin, I have to pick it up. A sliver of his illustration, "Vasilisa the Beautiful", peeks through the cover of Katya Kazbek's magical debut novel- Little Foxes Took Up Matches. Bilibin's illustrations introduced many Western readers to the fascinating and often terrifying world of Russian folklore- if you can see Baba Yaga in your mind right now, you are probably thinking of Bilibin's interpretation. This book, while steeped deeply in the dark and bitter tea of Russian folklore, is not about Bilibin. Kazbek is here to offer you another gateway drug into Russia, her people, her stories, and her history.  We're in Moscow in the 90s. The USSR has fallen, work is hard to come by, and corruption is plentiful. Adolescence is hard enough without having to share the living-room-couch-bedroom with your war-scarred and abusive cousin, but Mitya has an ace up his sleeve: A needle, actually. A needle is somewhere in his body, if his eternally gossipy and fretful grandmother is to be trusted.  Mitya swallowed a needle as a young child and now he is impervious to damage- much like Koschei of legend. Unlike Koschei, Mitya is not an uber-masculine antagonist of folklore. Mitya is a boy on the cusp of something greater- maybe even, he might be a girl? He finds comfort in the company, rituals, and adornments of womanhood.  This is where it's about time to start wondering: How does an almost-thirteen-year-old boy live with a needle inside of his body? Shouldn't he see a doctor? How did the needle get there in the first place? Well, this is a long story, which needs to be told from the beginning. It's hard to say whether anything exciting would happen to Mitya at all, if not for the incident with the needle. Maybe Mitya would not be hiding lipsticks in a jar beneath his T-shirt now. So listen to the tale closely, and don't interrupt. Whoever interrupts will have a snake crawl down their throat and will not live longer than three days from now. Mitya inhabits a small world filled with larger questions than he is prepared to answer. His spirited grandmother, his quiet mother, his downtrodden father and Mitya share an apartment in an old part of the city. Their neighborhood is rife with drunks, corrupt cops, unattended children and barely legal marketplaces. Mitya is oblivious of the goings-on of the city until the city swallows up his only friend. Headstrong but oblivious Mitya marches headfirst into a mystery, meeting the people who will escort him out of his own childhood along the way.  Life after the fall of the USSR treats Mitya and his friends and neighbors with cold disregard. Mitya is young, but is in no way spared by senseless violence and gnawing poverty of his world. This book is filled with fantasy sequences, joyous blasts of humor, and tightly woven webs of friendship- but those moments sparkle most brightly after scenes of pure horror. Abuse, murder, violence- you name it, it's a part of Mitya (and Moscow's) day-to-day experience. This story is not for the weak of heart (or stomach); it nestles in close to the guts of gruesome folklore and nihilist history.  There is beauty to be found in the melting snow and McDonalds wrappers; Mitya and Kazbek know how to find it.  I received this ARC from the Tin House in exchange for a fair and honest review

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kendra Gayle Lee

    Little Foxes Took Up Matches arrived as an ARC... I honestly don't know if I requested it or if the publisher just sent it. But I'm so grateful to the universal powers that be that this one ended up in my hands. Katya Kazbek masterfully navigates a coming of age novel that intertwines fairytale, wry observations by the sensitive 11 year old protagonist (Mitya), and gender exploration that floored me with both it's honestly and wisdom. The clarity with which Kazbek captures the way the preadolesc Little Foxes Took Up Matches arrived as an ARC... I honestly don't know if I requested it or if the publisher just sent it. But I'm so grateful to the universal powers that be that this one ended up in my hands. Katya Kazbek masterfully navigates a coming of age novel that intertwines fairytale, wry observations by the sensitive 11 year old protagonist (Mitya), and gender exploration that floored me with both it's honestly and wisdom. The clarity with which Kazbek captures the way the preadolescent mind views the world & processes information (joy, pain, horror, hope) rings true, poignant. I kept laughing at the black and white way that Mitya processed the world around him, then I'd be stunned by the tender insights (or sometimes the resignation) that he offered up. I've tried to weigh how to talk about this book with customers at Bookish. It is delightful to be in Mitya's world with him. And yet, he suffers terrible abuse at the hands of his cousin. And that is horrifying. But, at the same time, the tenor of the novel is so hopeful. And the fairytale so cheeky, salty, funny. I was so overwhelmingly pulled into post-Soviet Russia & Mitya's world and his observations that reminded me precisely what it is to be on the cusp of understanding the world in all its horror & beauty. Little Foxes Take Up Matches is such a worthwhile read. I was enchanted with Mitya. I can't recommend this one enough.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Carly-Ann Rigby

    I don't have the words to express how thoroughly I adored this book. It's the perfect combination of a coming-of-age journey of self-discovery, an exploration in gender and sexuality, a walk along the streets of Moscow, and a snapshot of a specific time in Russian history. I loved the storytelling and the folklore woven into it. Mitya is young and sweet and searching for the people with whom he belongs and this book is a sometimes heartbreaking absolute delight. Thank you so much to Tin House and I don't have the words to express how thoroughly I adored this book. It's the perfect combination of a coming-of-age journey of self-discovery, an exploration in gender and sexuality, a walk along the streets of Moscow, and a snapshot of a specific time in Russian history. I loved the storytelling and the folklore woven into it. Mitya is young and sweet and searching for the people with whom he belongs and this book is a sometimes heartbreaking absolute delight. Thank you so much to Tin House and Netgalley for the great opportunity to read it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Wheeler

    What a sweet, modern Russian tale of finding love and oneself amidst an uncertain political environment and societal pressures.

  13. 4 out of 5

    fatma

    DNF at 44%/155 pages I DNFd Little Foxes Took Up Matches not because it was a bad book, per se, but because I found it to be a really mediocre one. By far the biggest obstacle for me when it comes to this novel is the writing. Again, it's not bad, but it's extremely plain, the kind of writing that feels almost purely utilitarian, designed to get the story from point A to point B, but no more. (There are also these random and incongruous switches of POV that I found very jarring and not at all sea DNF at 44%/155 pages I DNFd Little Foxes Took Up Matches not because it was a bad book, per se, but because I found it to be a really mediocre one. By far the biggest obstacle for me when it comes to this novel is the writing. Again, it's not bad, but it's extremely plain, the kind of writing that feels almost purely utilitarian, designed to get the story from point A to point B, but no more. (There are also these random and incongruous switches of POV that I found very jarring and not at all seamless with the main narrative focus on Mitya.) And because of the nature of the writing, both character and narrative suffer. In terms of character, I wanted more of a sense of Mitya's interiority, more of his psychology, feelings, beliefs, etc. All of this was sort of present, but it all felt very surface level, and for the most part it was something we were told rather than shown. It's disappointing because Mitya is, in theory, a really interesting character, but the writing just didn't do him justice in practice. In terms of narrative, I also wanted more from the writing: because the writing is so plain, the story feels dry, and its pacing suffers. I felt like we were just going from one plot point to the other without anything else to pad out the story and give it a bit more heft or significance. To put it more plainly, I was bored. Mitya goes to school, then Mitya meets his cousin, then Mitya makes a friend, then Mitya investigates a mystery--it didn't make for very compelling reading because it was so sequential, lacking the emotional resonance that a more psychologically astute novel would've had. Overall, not bad, but just not good enough for me to keep reading. Thanks so much to Tin House for sending me an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly

    "Little Foxes Took Up Matches" by Katya Kazbek is definitely one of the most unusual coming-of-age stories I have ever read. It was interesting and unique and I absolutely devoured it! Interspersed with the Russian Fairy Tale, Mitya's story is charming and captivating. The writing is excellent and I enjoyed the representation of the LBGTQ community and the acceptance of many of the characters of Mitya's unconventionalities. Throw in some family dynamics and a little Russian history and you've go "Little Foxes Took Up Matches" by Katya Kazbek is definitely one of the most unusual coming-of-age stories I have ever read. It was interesting and unique and I absolutely devoured it! Interspersed with the Russian Fairy Tale, Mitya's story is charming and captivating. The writing is excellent and I enjoyed the representation of the LBGTQ community and the acceptance of many of the characters of Mitya's unconventionalities. Throw in some family dynamics and a little Russian history and you've got one great book! Many thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for the privilege of reading an advanced digital copy of this incredible book, in exchange for my honest review.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Zach Carter

    “Mitya felt a renewed longing for him, the need to find out, to resolve it, to run after. But then he felt the heaviness of all his losses and realized that some moments were precious just because they existed, even if you could never latch on to them, or reproduce them.” This is instantly one of my favorite novels. Just a beautiful, honest, and real story about childhood, trauma, family, gender, sexuality, friendship, and love. And on top of all that, the backdrop of the collapse of the Soviet “Mitya felt a renewed longing for him, the need to find out, to resolve it, to run after. But then he felt the heaviness of all his losses and realized that some moments were precious just because they existed, even if you could never latch on to them, or reproduce them.” This is instantly one of my favorite novels. Just a beautiful, honest, and real story about childhood, trauma, family, gender, sexuality, friendship, and love. And on top of all that, the backdrop of the collapse of the Soviet Union made it so much more compelling.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Nowak

    I choose to request the ARC of Katya Kazbek's latest book "Little Foxes Took Up Matches" based on its unique title, and am extremely glad that I did request and receive it. Although I am only minimally versed in Russian culture, and the USSR' s collapse, Kazbek provided enough background so that i did not feel lost in my knowledge of what was unfolding as the story progressed, while still keeping it from becoming a boring history lesson. I also enjoyed how the story was told along side of a Russ I choose to request the ARC of Katya Kazbek's latest book "Little Foxes Took Up Matches" based on its unique title, and am extremely glad that I did request and receive it. Although I am only minimally versed in Russian culture, and the USSR' s collapse, Kazbek provided enough background so that i did not feel lost in my knowledge of what was unfolding as the story progressed, while still keeping it from becoming a boring history lesson. I also enjoyed how the story was told along side of a Russian fairy tale, where certain comparisons were made. I would recommend this book to everyone who has an open mind to what actually goes on in the real world. Sometimes things are difficult to overcome, but hopefully there will be brighter days ahead.!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lolly K Dandeneau

    via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ 𝐇𝐢𝐬 𝐝𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐦𝐬 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐟𝐮𝐥𝐥 𝐨𝐟 𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐜𝐤𝐲, 𝐯𝐢𝐬𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐬 𝐟𝐚𝐢𝐫𝐲 𝐭𝐚𝐥𝐞𝐬, 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐡𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐊𝐨𝐬𝐜𝐡𝐞𝐢. 𝐁𝐮𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞’𝐬 𝐧𝐨 𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐨𝐥𝐮𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐲𝐞𝐭, 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐡𝐞’𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐯𝐢𝐥𝐥𝐚𝐢𝐧 𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐨. 𝐏𝐞𝐫𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐬 𝐌𝐢𝐭𝐲𝐚 𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐝𝐞𝐜𝐢𝐝𝐞, 𝐛𝐮𝐭 𝐡𝐞 𝐝𝐨𝐞𝐬𝐧’𝐭 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝐦𝐚𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐝𝐞𝐜𝐢𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬. This story is a fable and a queer coming of age in post-Soviet Russia. It begins with a skinny boy named Mitya, who likes to put on lipstick and dress up like a girl. It is a dangerous act, considering his father, Dmitriy Fyodorovich, is ash via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ 𝐇𝐢𝐬 𝐝𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐦𝐬 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐟𝐮𝐥𝐥 𝐨𝐟 𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐜𝐤𝐲, 𝐯𝐢𝐬𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐬 𝐟𝐚𝐢𝐫𝐲 𝐭𝐚𝐥𝐞𝐬, 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐡𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐊𝐨𝐬𝐜𝐡𝐞𝐢. 𝐁𝐮𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞’𝐬 𝐧𝐨 𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐨𝐥𝐮𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐲𝐞𝐭, 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐡𝐞’𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐯𝐢𝐥𝐥𝐚𝐢𝐧 𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐨. 𝐏𝐞𝐫𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐬 𝐌𝐢𝐭𝐲𝐚 𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐝𝐞𝐜𝐢𝐝𝐞, 𝐛𝐮𝐭 𝐡𝐞 𝐝𝐨𝐞𝐬𝐧’𝐭 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝐦𝐚𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐝𝐞𝐜𝐢𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬. This story is a fable and a queer coming of age in post-Soviet Russia. It begins with a skinny boy named Mitya, who likes to put on lipstick and dress up like a girl. It is a dangerous act, considering his father, Dmitriy Fyodorovich, is ashamed of his sensitive, delicate son and being a Afghan War veteran, he’d as soon beat the boy and see him disciplined, strong, a man’s man. The delicate boy already makes him uncomfortable and if he knew about his deviant behavior, there would be hell to pay. Every keepsake Dmitriy holds on to are all connected to his time in the army. His mother, Yelena, is the daughter of a distinguished space scientist and a graduate of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. A woman who feels above any mother on the playground, whom often make fun of her weak son. Both parents work at the Rubin factory, his father making televisions, and his mother a bookkeeper, until his dad is laid off. His Babushka, Alyssa Vitalyevna, hates Mitya’s father but they all live together in a Moscow apartment, on the Old Arbat. One day, while under her care, Mitya swallowed a sewing needle. Nothing being found on the X-rays, he is sent home, but from that day on his Babushka is sure he is doomed, that the needle is somewhere in his body or bloodstream (despite science) making him a ‘ticking time bomb’. As he grows up, Mitya discovers a fairytale about the Koschei and believes that the needle is a shield, his blessing. Considering the young child feels no ill effects from the object, it only follows that it signals him out as special. He is an intelligent (reading by the age of four), curious, tender boy. He isn’t sure what he is, boy or girl, something else. He is not the son his father hoped for, a boy who should be immune to tears and play with toy guns and enjoy sports. His grandmother loves all things bohemian and feeds the artist in her grandson, with caution, of course. When his father beats him, upon discovering his secret dress up one day, Mitya is left feeling small and insignificant and he learns to hide who he is even more. Sadly, it seems his life is under a hellish cloud when his cousin, Vovka, a wounded vet, moves in with them. The needle doesn’t seem like much of a shield then. Dmitriy feels he owes it to his brother, who died in the war before Mitya was born, to help his nephew. Vovka is damaged, haunted in his sleep, severely burned, missing his right arm. There is a camaraderie between these army men, excusing all sorts of warnings. He shares Mitya’s bed in the small home, Mitya’s solitude and privacy is gone, here is just another man in the house who hates ‘sissies’. Torment and vile abuses begin, the only joy and light left in Mitya’s life is when he makes friends with a homeless man named Valerka. Valerka doesn’t care about what he wears, how he looks, or how he defines himself. Valerka tends to crows during the day, his ‘ladies’. He believes in ‘treating all of god’s creatures kindly’, and soon the boy is boding with the winged creatures. Times are viscous, terrible things happen, people disappear, and when Valerka goes missing, what he learns devastates him. It is the catalyst that forces Mitya on a path to discovering himself, in trying to find out what happened to his dear friend. Parallel worlds exist, dangerous places, and Mitya will meet young people like himself, who have run away from terrible situations, so bad that the threat of the streets is preferable. Homeless boys, crimes, the darker side of his country, corruption. It is about Russia, it’s culture and history, the aftermath of the Soviet collapse, the underbelly that hides all sorts of criminal activity, myths, folktales, gender identity, and sexuality. Much time is spent with Mitya’s conflicted emotions, about his body and his desires and the ache to be accepted by his family, who of course he loves. While hoping to beat his ‘deviance’ out of his own son, Dmitriy fails to see the true deviant in their midst- Vovka. All Mitya wants is love, understanding. When it first begins and he is young, he is made to feel ashamed when he doesn’t yet know who he is or why the way he is angers his father, it’s heartbreaking. It is an awakening, as his innocence drops away and in journeying beyond his boundaries, he may just discover what he wants out of life, for himself. Whatever your feelings are about gender identity, this was an interesting, engaging tale about Russia, with a fairytale theme. It’s one of the hardest things to stomach, a child (of any age) being abused. What do you do when your natural state is a thing to be shamed, shunned? Where the one place where you should be supported, protected, fails you? There is a lot to unpack and this would definitely open discussion for any reading group. It was an interesting book to be reading with current world events. Publication Date: April 5, 2022 Tin House

  18. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Many thanks to Tin House and NetGalley for the ARC! Little Foxes Took Up Matches follow Mitya, a young boy growing up in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Mitya doesn’t fit with his culture’s construction of masculinity; he’s delicate and pretty rather than strong and tough, and sometimes, when he is alone in the apartment, he likes to put on make up and dress as a girl. After the death of a homeless man he befriended, Mitya begins to explore Moscow and meet people who have been aff Many thanks to Tin House and NetGalley for the ARC! Little Foxes Took Up Matches follow Mitya, a young boy growing up in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Mitya doesn’t fit with his culture’s construction of masculinity; he’s delicate and pretty rather than strong and tough, and sometimes, when he is alone in the apartment, he likes to put on make up and dress as a girl. After the death of a homeless man he befriended, Mitya begins to explore Moscow and meet people who have been affected by the war in various ways. This book is both beautiful and heartbreaking. Kazbek’s writing is lovely and fairy tale-esque, and Mitya is such a wonderfully drawn character. I loved watching him figure out the world around him and himself. But this was also quite hard to read at times. It heavily features the physical and sexual abuse of a child, so be aware of that when picking up the book Interwoven with Mitya’s story is a reimagining of Koschei the Deathless, a figure from Russian folklore. Koschei is the antagonist of many fairy tales, generally kidnapping the hero’s love interest. From the beginning of the story, Mitya feels a connection with Koschei, whose soul is hidden inside a needle. When Mitya is a toddler, he swallows a sewing needle his grandmother dropped. While his family is convinced it will kill him eventually, Mitya believes it provides him guidance and protection. Kazbek reimagines Koschei as a genderqueer character who is rejected by his family for dressing as a woman. While I’m familiar with Koschei the Deathless, I’m not well-versed in Russian fairy tales, so I’m sure there’s quite a bit I missed in this section. I want to return to the book after reading up more on the subject. But even without much knowledge, these parts of the book were enjoyable, and it was interesting to see the parallels between Koschei’s story and Mitya’s. My only complaint with the book was that there are some odd point of view switches. The whole book is told in the third person, and it is mainly limited to Mitya’s perspective. However, sometimes Kazbek would wander into another character’s head for just a few sentences. It happened frequently enough that I noticed it but not frequently enough for me to consider the book told from third person omniscient. It’s a very minor issue with the book, and I probably only noticed it because I’m sensitive to point of view switches. It certainly doesn’t affect the beauty of the book in anyway. Overall, Little Foxes Took Up Matches is a stunning coming-of-age novel that blends fairy tale and reality to explore gender identity. It’s absolutely beautiful, and I highly recommend it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Angelina

    Absolutely batshit crazy in its genius. Mitya is maybe my favourite protagonist I've ever read from the perspective from. A beautiful look on what it is to be gay, to belong, to be a queen, to be intertwined with a fairytale. I adored every second I spent with this book and I cannot wait to reread it again. Kazbek's writing is so stable and masterful while she weaves around glorious prose and story. There was no point in this novel that was not perfect. Absolutely batshit crazy in its genius. Mitya is maybe my favourite protagonist I've ever read from the perspective from. A beautiful look on what it is to be gay, to belong, to be a queen, to be intertwined with a fairytale. I adored every second I spent with this book and I cannot wait to reread it again. Kazbek's writing is so stable and masterful while she weaves around glorious prose and story. There was no point in this novel that was not perfect.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Karla Jay

    This book, a break from my usual thriller or historical fiction read, was engaging and at times terribly honest. Little Foxes Took Up Matches is a woven journey of a coming-of-age story mixed with life-changing sexual encounters, Russian myths, and the resilience of the main character who is often funny in the face of less-than-ideal circumstances. The post-soviet Russia’s paradoxes and settings were interesting, with an overriding theme on how to fit into a changing society that’s maybe not qui This book, a break from my usual thriller or historical fiction read, was engaging and at times terribly honest. Little Foxes Took Up Matches is a woven journey of a coming-of-age story mixed with life-changing sexual encounters, Russian myths, and the resilience of the main character who is often funny in the face of less-than-ideal circumstances. The post-soviet Russia’s paradoxes and settings were interesting, with an overriding theme on how to fit into a changing society that’s maybe not quite ready for Mitya as he realizes his secret need to be female, at all costs. Charming and disturbing, this debut is worth the time. Thanks to Tin House @tin_house and NetGalley @netgalley for letting me read a digital ARC of this book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Em

    Really cool book! I loved the character’s world, the political atmosphere of my own city in the late 90s. The intergenerational relationships were really special here. Kazbek’s use of Russian in the text with and without translations was a really cool artistic decision, and made me feel at home in the text. I thought the contemporary folklore interlude story didn’t quite work. I also thought the explicitness of the child abuse was somewhat cruel, it was more than necessary for the story. Overall Really cool book! I loved the character’s world, the political atmosphere of my own city in the late 90s. The intergenerational relationships were really special here. Kazbek’s use of Russian in the text with and without translations was a really cool artistic decision, and made me feel at home in the text. I thought the contemporary folklore interlude story didn’t quite work. I also thought the explicitness of the child abuse was somewhat cruel, it was more than necessary for the story. Overall… Would definitely recommend this book!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    Born in 1986 in Moscow, Mitya navigates family, friends, loss, pain, identity, and the general business of growing up against the backdrop of a tumultuous time in his country. Interspersed with the story of the immortal folktale antihero Koschei, this is a beautiful coming-of-age story featuring one of the most lovable protagonists I've read in a while. Born in 1986 in Moscow, Mitya navigates family, friends, loss, pain, identity, and the general business of growing up against the backdrop of a tumultuous time in his country. Interspersed with the story of the immortal folktale antihero Koschei, this is a beautiful coming-of-age story featuring one of the most lovable protagonists I've read in a while.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Natalie Lerner

    I'm torn between 4 and 5 stars for this book, but I found it very engaging and I often like books from kids' perspective. I also like to learn more about Russian politics always! An interesting read I'm torn between 4 and 5 stars for this book, but I found it very engaging and I often like books from kids' perspective. I also like to learn more about Russian politics always! An interesting read

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mikhail Koulikov

    The author does an absolutely amazing job of capturing the feeling of Moscow in the Yeltsin years - from the perspective of a child who starts out sheltered and naive and innocent and pure-hearted. The child is forced to grow up and cannot help but grow up, so the question becomes, how much of what this child started with remains at the end. This is very clearly not a book written by someone who only has a passing familiarity with Moscow. The setting is real - not just tourist Moscow, but also pl The author does an absolutely amazing job of capturing the feeling of Moscow in the Yeltsin years - from the perspective of a child who starts out sheltered and naive and innocent and pure-hearted. The child is forced to grow up and cannot help but grow up, so the question becomes, how much of what this child started with remains at the end. This is very clearly not a book written by someone who only has a passing familiarity with Moscow. The setting is real - not just tourist Moscow, but also plenty of other, much less glamorous locations all around the city. Many other references (names, terms, places) are also very specific to the time and the setting. They will either make sense to you if you were there yourself back then, or will make no sense at all - and no, there are no footnotes or anything like that. But maybe reading it will make you intrigued enough to look into some of the names that the author mentions, especially names of Soviet/Russian rock musicians! In a similar way, often, the author only transliterates what characters are saying in Russian, leaving it up to you to figure out the meaning from context, look for a dictionary or Google Translate, or just skip a word or two here and there. These words are never crucial to the plot, but they do add dimensions to the characters, and of course, emphasize that, from the point of view of a non-Russian audience, these characters are "foreign" and "different" and "other". In the end, the flow of the story sometimes feels like a dream. But it's grounded in a very real time and place, and this combination makes Little Foxes Took Up Matches unique and unforgettable.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    Such an interesting book. Wholly engaging and original. Very difficult to describe the reading experience I had, but I'll try. It was like navigating a stone path. Beautiful, but you have to pay attention! The interspersed fairy tale confused me a little bit, but just a little. I feel like the Russian words should have confused me, but they didn't. I kind of actually enjoyed that very much! Mitya's story was both uplifting and heartbreaking. I'm glad I read this art! And I do believe it truly is Such an interesting book. Wholly engaging and original. Very difficult to describe the reading experience I had, but I'll try. It was like navigating a stone path. Beautiful, but you have to pay attention! The interspersed fairy tale confused me a little bit, but just a little. I feel like the Russian words should have confused me, but they didn't. I kind of actually enjoyed that very much! Mitya's story was both uplifting and heartbreaking. I'm glad I read this art! And I do believe it truly is a work of art. I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Keating

    Translator Katya Kazbek’s debut novel is rife with fantasy. In a literal sense, this comes from the retold fairy tale interwoven throughout. More impressively, the atmosphere Kazbek creates in her rendering of emotionally desolate post-USSR Moscow manages often to capture and maintain that feeling. When Mitya is two years old, his grandmother loses a needle while sewing and his family assumes he must have swallowed it. This leads Mitya to draw parallels to the story of Koschei the Deathless (Kos Translator Katya Kazbek’s debut novel is rife with fantasy. In a literal sense, this comes from the retold fairy tale interwoven throughout. More impressively, the atmosphere Kazbek creates in her rendering of emotionally desolate post-USSR Moscow manages often to capture and maintain that feeling. When Mitya is two years old, his grandmother loses a needle while sewing and his family assumes he must have swallowed it. This leads Mitya to draw parallels to the story of Koschei the Deathless (Koschei is a villainous character, and Mitya’s self-identification with him is revealing). Koschei’s soul is hidden inside of a needle, which is hidden in an increasingly bizarre array of nesting objects chained up and buried on the island. Koschei can’t be killed unless the needle is broken, similar in concept to the heel of Achilles (far superior to Achilles's setup, Kazbek notes in the novel’s opening). Mitya secretly believes the needle he must have swallowed has made him special, and maybe even invincible. Life, however, is not so easy as one might expect it to be for someone in possession of an immortality needle. Mitya discovers at a very young age that he doesn’t know how he fits into a world categorized by binary gender. He likes to dress up as a girl, but he isn’t sure what this means—does he want to be a girl? Does he only want to be a girl sometimes? What’s the difference between boys and girls, and are those the only options, anyway? The queer story Kazbek tells is a beautiful one, equal parts confusion and exploration, but peppered with gemlike moments of realization as well. The most striking aspect of Mitya’s journey towards self-discovery is its unhurriedness and its lack of concern with labels. Mitya is more concerned about figuring out what it is that makes him feel at home with himself than he is any sort of rigid categorization. At the same time, I appreciate the prescience of these thoughts to Mitya. Although Kazbek is unhurried in her treatment of this aspect of the story, these questions of his identity matter deeply to Mitya, as they often do when one first starts asking them. Parallel chapters (denoted with spelled-out numbers, e.g. “one,” “two,” as opposed to the main chapters in numerals) offer what is at times a necessary reprieve from the bleakness of Mitya’s day-to-day existence. These are implied to take place in Mitya’s dreams, and tell a strange, fantastical story about Koschei, the aforementioned immortal villain. In this re-telling, Koschei is the heir to an all-male dynasty of Koschei villains, and doesn’t feel very villainous, or very manly. The imagery used throughout is sufficiently bizarre and magical in the odd and sometimes even grotesque way that old folk- and fairy-tales (as well as dreams) so often are. They are not the heart of the novel but serve to illuminate it, and drawing connections between the two stories is interesting and fruitful. Mitya is at his strongest when he is at his most childlike, I think, which seems to fit with a line at the end of the first chapter, where Kazbek notes that often it is children who see reality most clearly. For all of Mitya’s strengths as a character, there are times when suspension of disbelief becomes difficult, when Mitya seems a little too wise and conscious for an eleven-or-twelve year old boy (even younger, in the opening chapters). I am well aware that abuse, poverty, and the challenges of an awful childhood will cause someone to mature—in some sense—very quickly. Lest it seem that I contradict the point I just made: Mitya’s childlike views and his struggle to understand the world are sources of wonder and beauty, and yes, of a certain kind of wisdom. That being said, there are select moments where Mitya’s social sensitivity—which I would argue is not an aspect of that childish proclivity for the truth—seems to go far beyond his years. Mitya acts as though despite his general lack of understanding of the world at large, he somehow has the astute social awareness of someone far older and more experienced than he is, especially given his social isolation. These moments are small, however, and others may not find them terribly disruptive. Kazbek’s characters are her strength: take Mitya’s grandmother, Alyssa Vitalyevna, a very funny character whose every word seems completely inevitable because she has been created so truthfully. Marina is another particularly shining example, a young Ukrainian woman suffering as she tries to make ends meet after fleeing home. It’s astonishing the way that some characters, who appear so very little, can live on so vividly for the duration of the book—this is a recurring theme. Examples include a handsome and kind homeless boy or the child-turned-lead-singer of a popular underground band. Small intersections with people follow Mitya like ghosts, both friendly and malevolent. The book centers primarily on Mitya and his thoughts but occasionally glimpses are offered into the lives of others. This sifting through the thoughts of the supporting cast sets the stage with texture, depth, and tenderness. It allows us to sympathize, on some level, with everyone, and serves to make the world Mitya lives in feel real, almost tangible. There is deep humanity in the equality with which these thoughts are exposed. Early on in the book Mitya suffers abuse from his older cousin, Vovka, who has come back from the war with one less arm, horrifically traumatized by the battlefield. We are treated to a grueling description of the act, one of the first truly harrowing passages in the novel (of several to come). The narration, though, has no qualms about letting the reader inside Vovka's head, notably in a later passage, where he realizes to his own horror the things he has just done, and lies awake in terror, thinking on the war and how now he is not only the tortured but the torturer. This is not a story interested in binary distinctions of good and evil, even when it would allow the reader to sleep more soundly. Little Foxes Took Up Matches is a compelling and rewarding queer coming-of-age tale with its excellent dreamlike atmosphere, though it is not for the faint of heart.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Desi

    This was quite unlike any other book I've read in a long time. It takes place in Moscow in '97/'98 and Mitya would now, I think, identity as gender queer, and at the age of 11 is not comfortable in his boy skin/label. He suffers for experimentation but finds both subtle and overt affirmation from different quarters. I was relieved that it was, in the end, a mostly uplifting story, rather than tragedy (as it certainly could have turned out to be). Despite having studied a reasonable quantity of R This was quite unlike any other book I've read in a long time. It takes place in Moscow in '97/'98 and Mitya would now, I think, identity as gender queer, and at the age of 11 is not comfortable in his boy skin/label. He suffers for experimentation but finds both subtle and overt affirmation from different quarters. I was relieved that it was, in the end, a mostly uplifting story, rather than tragedy (as it certainly could have turned out to be). Despite having studied a reasonable quantity of Russian fairy tales in undergrad, I was not familiar with the one that is retold as part of this story, and that element mostly lost me. The author's bio describes her as bilingual and she made an interesting choice to just use various Russian phrases in the flow of the narrative without translating (or sometimes giving clues as to the meaning). That did not present any obstacle to my understanding (and sometimes enhanced it because some of those words would have suffered nuance in translation), but I wonder how that would work for a reader who had no knowledge or context of Russian. I also noticed a few typos (I assume) and a bad word break in a Russian word, possibly related to an unfamiliar editor along the way (Tin House is an independent but not amateur/baby publisher, so I was a little surprised to see them).

  28. 4 out of 5

    Cathy Beyers

    Taking into account that this was written by a former student of mine, I may be a little bit biased. Nevertheless, I immensely enjoyed this book, not in the least because it was set during the period when I was living in Moscow and many of the details of the story were very recognisable. I don't know how people less familiar with Russia will connect to the story but to me it was all too real. It felt like I was back in Moscow in the nineties, but through Mitya's eyes I gained a better perspectiv Taking into account that this was written by a former student of mine, I may be a little bit biased. Nevertheless, I immensely enjoyed this book, not in the least because it was set during the period when I was living in Moscow and many of the details of the story were very recognisable. I don't know how people less familiar with Russia will connect to the story but to me it was all too real. It felt like I was back in Moscow in the nineties, but through Mitya's eyes I gained a better perspective on how hard life has always been for people who are different in Russia. Unfortunately, even today very little has changed. The fairy tale section gives this story an extra bit of Russian soul and I love the queer Koschei and his quest to find his place in the fairy tale world. I am sure my review doesn't do the book justice, but I hope many of my students will read it to open their minds to what it means to be different. I am looking forward to more of your writing, Katya.

  29. 4 out of 5

    agata

    Little Foxes Took Up Matches is a poetic, enchanting novel about Mitya - a young boy living in Moscow after the collapse of the Soviet Union. When Mitya was a toddler, he swallowed his grandmother’s needle, and ever since then, he believed that the needle was guiding and protecting him. But as he grows up and starts to discover more about himself and the society he lives in, he has to find the bravery to embark on a journey to find a place where he can belong. Interwoven with Mitya’s story is als Little Foxes Took Up Matches is a poetic, enchanting novel about Mitya - a young boy living in Moscow after the collapse of the Soviet Union. When Mitya was a toddler, he swallowed his grandmother’s needle, and ever since then, he believed that the needle was guiding and protecting him. But as he grows up and starts to discover more about himself and the society he lives in, he has to find the bravery to embark on a journey to find a place where he can belong. Interwoven with Mitya’s story is also a retelling featuring a character from Russian folklore - Koschei the Deathless. The fable part of the book adds a dreamlike, fairytale layer to the story, but personally I enjoyed following Mitya’s adventures more. His inner voice was what made Little Foxes Took Up Matches into a unique, a bit surrealistic novel about queerness, growing up, and becoming true to oneself. I was more captivated by this novel than I expected - Russian literature in my mind is forever linked with Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, and while Kazbek’s writing definitely has this distinctive Slavic ‘vibe’, it’s much more tender and relatable. I absolutely loved the characters that she created, especially Mitya and Marina, who becomes his best friend. I only wish that the ending was a bit more solid: it felt abrupt and I would love to see more closure. TLDR: Little Foxes Took Up Matches is a beautifully written coming of age story set in 90s Moscow, that focuses on queerness and family bonds.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tracey Thompson

    The intriguingly-titled Little Foxes Took Up Matches is the debut novel from Katya Kazbek, a bilingual Russian/English writer and translator. Mitya lives in Moscow at a time of political turmoil, with his mother, grandmother, and father. He feels incredibly out of place, and harbors desires to dress as a woman. Two events radically change his path; a homeless friend is murdered, and his alcoholic, abusive cousin takes us residence in Mitya’s home. Mitya’s story is intertwined with a retelling of The intriguingly-titled Little Foxes Took Up Matches is the debut novel from Katya Kazbek, a bilingual Russian/English writer and translator. Mitya lives in Moscow at a time of political turmoil, with his mother, grandmother, and father. He feels incredibly out of place, and harbors desires to dress as a woman. Two events radically change his path; a homeless friend is murdered, and his alcoholic, abusive cousin takes us residence in Mitya’s home. Mitya’s story is intertwined with a retelling of a Russian folktale about Koshcei the Deathless. The story somewhat reflects Mitya’s journey, but I mostly just enjoyed these fantastical sections as a separate entity. Little Foxes is a great novel. Mitya is a wonderful character; he is warm, naive, but ultimately liberated. Like all of us, he is hoping to discover his true self, despite the constant judgement of others. Mitya’s father is an especially fearsome force in the book, often taking out his dissatisfaction with life on those around him. And the abuse Mitya endured at the hands of his cousin, Vovka, a Chechen war veteran, is horrific. Little Foxes Took Up Matches can be appreciated on many levels; as a bildungsroman, a political novel, a murder mystery, or a fantasy novel. It is completely unique, in an accessible way. Kazbek has created a wonderful character in Mitya, and I would be very intrigued to read Mitya’s ongoing adventures.

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