Book Recommendation: ‘The Genius Under the Table’ by Eugene Yelchin

Recommended by John Maggitti, co-owner/manager of Novel Bay Booksellers, ​​44 N. 3rd Ave. in Sturgeon Bay

Sometimes young-adult books just surprise you with their insightfulness. The Genius under the Table: Growing up behind the Iron Curtain is one of those. It’s a memoir that reads like a novel with its vivid and compelling characters and descriptions of an “ordinary” life in the USSR. 

The Genius tells the story of young Yevgeny growing up in the Soviet Union during a time of change, when the old ways are running headlong into the world as it truly is. The underlying ugliness of the communist state is clearly told by a young boy who struggles to understand the “why” behind the “how” of what is. Think Animal Farm meets a coming-of-age tale.

An athletically talented brother, a former-war-hero father, an almost-was mother, a mysteriously absent grandfather and a bumbling KGB agent are all people in Yevgeny’s life. Together, these characters create a compelling reminder of what was – and what we don’t want to see the likes of again.

Readable to children, and readable by young students and adults, it was my surprise top-five book of 2021.

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