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In the summer of 1977, seventeen-year-old Mona Manoliu falls in love with Mihai, a green-eyed boy who lives in Brasov, the romantic mountain city where she spends her summers. But under the Ceausescu dictatorship, paranoia infects everyone; soon Mona begins to suspect that Mihai is part of the secret police. As food shortages worsen and her loved ones begin to disappear, Mona realizes that she too must leave. Over the next twenty years, she struggles to bury her longing for the past, yet she eventually finds herself compelled to return, determined to learn the truth about her one great love.
“Vivid. . . . . Alive with the youthful awareness of the texture of the old world. . . . Suspend all cynicism and believe in the possibility of this love story.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Deeply moving and deeply felt. . . . An unforgettable story that introduces a new and astonishingly fresh voice.”
—Arthur Golden, author of Memoirs of a Geisha
“Sweeping, gorgeous. . . . Every page in this elegant, sophisticated novel drips with detail.” —The San Diego Union-Tribune
“Radulescu's novel, sprung from an autobiographical impulse, powerfully combines the intensity of first love, the confusion of politics, and the melancholy of exile.”
—The Boston Globe
“I was swept away by Domnica Radulescu’s debut novel. It’s at once a haunting journey to a faraway country, beautiful and terrifying, and an odyssey straight to the heart of a young girl and the remarkable woman she becomes. Deeply moving and deeply felt, Train to Trieste is an unforgettable story that introduces a new and astonishingly fresh voice.”
–Arthur Golden, author of Memoirs of a Geisha
“A spirited, passionate, funny look at the world in the time of the new millennium. Domnica Radulescu is a remarkable writer enriching American letters with her Romanian perspective. We are lucky to call her ours.”
–Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street
“Richly poetic . . . Mona, an impulsive Bucharest teen, falls in love with Mihai, a boy from the mountains. He’s just lost his longtime girlfriend to a violent accident, and Mona’s drawn to the rawness of his grieving. Her youth in Romania is a flurry of sensual pleasures, despite the fear and want endemic to life under a Stalinist regime. . . . Though Mona grapples with secret police and with scarcity, her evocations of the pleasures of youth and love are indomitably joyous, almost synesthetic in their sensuality. . . . Mona’s story spins out over years, as she builds an American life that’s forever overshadowed by the one she left behind. Fittingly, the novel ends in Romania, on her first trip back. Radulescu beautifully evokes the timelessness of spaces, as Mona’s middle-aged self attempts to fit into landscapes she moved in as a young woman. The book’s final pages raise as many questions as they answer, but Radulescu is happy to leave something to the imagination.”
–Melissa Albert, Time Out Chicago
“A must-read thriller. Radulescu writes with intensity and urgency and pulls readers along with her first-person account of escape, survival and love. . . . Mona Manoliu is a student and blossoming beauty of 17 when she meets Mihai while vacationing in the beautiful foothills of the Carpathians. Radulescu’s descriptions of this region speak volumes about her intimate knowledge of her home country. Innocent love risks discovery back home in Bucharest as Mona’s father pursues hidden agendas, and even best friends are suspected enemies. Savagery and starvation prevail as Ceausescu and cohorts bleed the country of food and money. Mona’s family urges her to flee . . . [After living in America for years,] Mona makes the return to her homeland and her first love. What she finds is a revelation that is both unsettling and satisfying. Mona Manoliu lives her life in rapid, staccato bursts of action and emotion. Readers will page through her adventures with precisely the same feelings.”
–Barbara Dickinson, The Roanoke Times (October 12, 2008)