A breathtaking novel of love, madness, and devotion set against the extravagant royal court of eighteenth-century St. Petersburg, Russia.
Xenia is an eccentric dreamer when she falls in love with a charismatic singer in the Imperial choir. Though they adore each other, their happiness is overshadowed by the demands of the royal court, and by Xenia's obsession to have a child. When a tragic vision comes true, she withdraws into grief and undergoes a profound transformation, giving her possessions to the poor. Then, one day, she vanishes.
Years later, dressed in the tatters of her husband's mil-itary uniform, Xenia is discovered tending the paupers of St. Petersburg's slums. Revered as a soothsayer and a healer, she is feared by Empress Catherine, who perceives her deeds as a rebuke.
In this elegant tale, Dean reimagines the life of Xenia of St. Petersburg, one of Russia's most mysterious and beloved holy figures. It is an evocative exploration of the blessings of long and loyal friendship, the limits of reason, and the true costs of loving deeply.
About the Author
A native of Seattle, Debra Dean worked as an actor in New York for nearly a decade before becoming a writer. She lives in Miami and teaches in the creative writing program at Florida International University.
“In her excellent second novel, THE MIRRORED WORLD, Debra Dean has composed a resonant and compelling tale. . . . Dean’s writing is superb; she uses imagery natural to the story and an earlier time.”
“For those familiar with the story of St. Xenia, this is a gratifying take on a compelling woman. For others, Dean’s vivid prose and deft pacing make for a quick and entertaining read.”
“Love affairs, rivalries, intrigues, prophecy, cross-dressing, madness, sorrow, poverty—THE MIRRORED WORLD is a litany of both the homely and the miraculous. Intimate and richly appointed, Debra Dean’s Imperial St. Petersburg is as sumptuous and enchanted as the Winter Palace.”
-Stewart O’Nan, bestselling author of Last Night at the Lobster
“THE MIRRORED WORLD explores the mysteries of love and grief and devotion. Against a vivid backdrop of eighteenth century St. Petersburg and Catherine the Great’s royal court, the woman who would become St. Xenia is brought fully to life. Is there a more imaginative, elegant storyteller than Debra Dean?”
-Ann Hood, bestselling author of The Knitting Circle
“With evocative, rich prose and deep emotional resonance, Debra Dean delivers a compelling and captivating story that touches the soul. Truly a wonderful read.”
-Garth Stein, bestselling author of The Art of Racing in the Rain
“Transporting readers to St. Petersburg during the reign of Catherine the Great, Dean brilliantly reconstructs and reimagines the life of St. Xenia, one of Russia’s most revered and mysterious holy figures, in a richly told and thought-provoking work of historical fiction.”
“Dean’s novel grows more profound and affecting with every page.”
“In Debra Dean’s skilled hands, history comes alive. . . . Though the world she creates is harsh and cold at times, it is the warmth at its center— the power of love — that stays with you in the end.”