Winter Kept Us Warm

A Novel

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Book Description

“Every word here feels set down with care and fierce conscience. The resulting narrative glows.” —San Francisco Chronicle

A novel of rich details and landscapes, Winter Kept Us Warm follows three friends through six decades — from postwar Berlin to Manhattan, 1960s Los Angeles to contemporary Morocco. A twisting narrative reveals their mysteries in fragments, examining their long–ago love triangle and how it changed their lives forever.

“This novel is a profound success that manages to take its place in the canon of excellent war literature while also maintaining a kind of magical surreality . . . This is an astonishing read, a best–of, and a masterful treatise on enduring.” —Lambda Literary

About the Author

Praise For This Book

Praise for Winter Kept Us Warm

Winner of the California Book Award Silver Medal in Fiction
Finalist for the 2019 California Book Award in Fiction

A Finalist for the 2019 Northern California Book Award in Fiction
Short–listed for the 2019 Simpson Family Literary Prize
The Rumpus, What to Read When 2018 Is Just Around the Corner

"Raeff’s (The Jungle Around Us, 2016) meditative novel effectively conveys the enduring trauma of war, the conflicting desires for stability and escape, and the need to connect." –Booklist

"In many ways, this is a novel about absence—the absence of those most harmed by the war; the emotional absence felt inside relationships, romantic or otherwise . . . It is about the choices people slide into almost by accident that end up shaping their lives, and how this becomes clear only with the wisdom of hindsight. This kind of drama is quiet and subtle, but Raeff knows how to wield her words in this space, and makes small pronouncements devastating . . . These characters are in the thick of their lives, and Raeff shows us their fullness in quick sketches, the way a skilled artist may convey movement and attitude with only a few penciled lines." —Los Angeles Times

"Richly depicting emotional interiority of its characters, Raeff’s novel reveals how the devastating effects of war and hidden secrets can impact lives across decades." —Publishers Weekly

"Raeff writes brilliantly about characters that orbit each other for years on end, evolving and regressing in different corners of the world in ways that parallel their far–flung counterparts . . . In this author’s nimble hands, the struggle for love, safety, and meaning feels palpable as the reader watches each character scour various routes toward those ends . . . Raeff’s great achievement is having assembled a cast so recognizably flawed that it’s easy to root empathetically for their contentment." —Los Angeles Review of Books

"Every word here feels set down with care and fierce conscience. The resulting narrative glows as if distilled . . . Winter Kept Us Warm is deeply concerned with what makes a family, with inevitable, unanswerable loss, with the intricacies of language and time; love and war, friendship, the life of art and the imagination, and always (borrowing from Yeats) the quest of the 'pilgrim soul.' In other words, just about everything that ever mattered. The novel’s own quest is one in which we can happily lose—and find—ourselves." —San Francisco Chronicle

"The novel is a profound success that manages to take its place in the canon of excellent war literature while also maintaining a kind of magical surreality . . . At moments, the narrative even veers into Gabriel García Márquez territory with its mastery of human complications and conditions, its holiness of unrequited love . . . This is an astounding read, a best–of, and a masterful treatise on enduring." —Lambda Literary

"Raeff is a consummate storyteller, providing deep insight into her characters through her keen use of language and image. Depictions of places are similarly moving, both historically accurate and a vital part of the characters’ story. Readers’ emotions will run the gamut, rejoicing at quiet moments of happiness, and tearing up when tragedy strikes. These are characters—and choices—to think about long after finishing the last page." —Historical Novel Society

"An ambitious, multi–generational tale." —ZYZZYVA

"Raeff creates a moving sense of the sweep of history." —The Mercury News

"Through expertly maneuvering the intricacies of time, Raeff maintains a sense of apprehension and suspense for the reader, while painting a diverse picture of the often unseen landscapes of postwar existence . . . She digs deep and prods the most sensitive parts of the heart, exposing us to ourselves through her characters, showing us the painfully complex and contradictory mysteries that comprise human emotion in the most beautiful and haunting way possible." —Arizona Daily Sun

"From the first night that Ulli, Leo, and Isaac meet, in a bar in Berlin the winter after the war, the reader is absorbed in their history and their fate. Raeff writes with vivid assurance about Berlin, America, and Morocco, about men and women, about love and work. As the boundaries between characters shift, as past and present converge, Winter Kept Us Warm casts a dazzling spell. A wonderful novel." —Margot Livesey, author of Mercury and Criminals

"A tale of an unusual love triangle spanning decades, Anne Raeff’s Winter Kept Us Warm explores how war builds loyalties and tears them apart, how secrets destroy the best in us, and how a single lifetime isn’t enough to make up for all we have lost. Beguiling, mesmerizing, touching, and smart, this novel will lure you back to page one to experience it all over again." —Michelle Hoover, author of Bottomland

"I loved this book. It’s a book about history, about the world, about love and responsibility and being true—to others and to yourself—but like all good books it’s really just about us, people, how hard it is to live, and how much joy there is in trying to. An astonishing and impressive book that illuminates and particularizes the twentieth century." —Daniel Wallace, author of Big Fish

"Anne Raeff’s extraordinary novel fills me with wonder: at the vivid textures of the different worlds she describes, whether it is a Moroccan wedding or a wintry Berlin apartment, at the complex emotional landscapes of her three main characters, and at the humanity and wisdom in her story. Through the flawed, deep love shared by Leo, Isaac, and Ulli, we learn of the pain of loss, the consolations of friendship, and the enduring, traumatic legacies of war. A haunting, indispensable novel." —Sylvia Brownrigg, author of Pages for Her

Praise for The Jungle Around Us
Winner of the 2015 Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction

"'Don't forget to feed the chickens,' Pepe's parents told her when they left for the jungle to take care of the yellow–fever victims." That homely yet alarming sentence opens Raeff's Flannery O'Connor Award–winning collection and holds one of its central tensions: the mundane stuff of life seated within tremendously fraught circumstances... Political and emotional displacement run through these stories, which span the globe from New York to the Soviet Union to South America... In many of these perfectly controlled tales, a wilderness of emotion lies beneath the surface — a spurned lover cries silently, almost elegantly, while another writes a long, engaging letter she'll never send; a homesick wife's pillow–propped posture, reading in bed, is expressive of solace and sorrow, both. The jungle itself is ever present, sometimes literally and always metaphorically, a living force within and without." —San Francisco Chronicle

"This ability to fit unfortunate truth and acknowledgment of privilege in one line is typical of Raeff's work. Her stories emerge from what is clearly a socially conscious place, but it is never spoon–fed to readers. These are truly good stories, full of emotion and energy. Her style is uniform, quietly lush, with a distance between narration and story where atmosphere lives." —Ilana Masad, Los Angeles Times

"It is not often that I encounter a collection so compact, ambitious, accomplished, and delightful to read... A spiritual plane is not easily come by in much of today's short fiction, but Raeff sets her aims there in each of these stories. She hits her mark consistently, never letting generic boundaries of ethnicity or gender obscure her Levinasian vision of characters who are infinitely other yet endlessly knowable, be they strangers or the people one knows best." —Hugh Sheeney, Los Angeles Review of Books

"The characters in "The Jungle Around Us" often are partial misfits, in physical and spiritual exile or displacement, who do their best to survive and find joy in a strange, indifferent and perilous world...These are not easy stories to digest, but ultimately they are rich and rewarding fare." —Minneapolis Star Tribune

"The slow, measured prose of these nine interrelated tales approaches big topics—loneliness, belonging, death, fear—and yet, Raeff's stories are intimate, character driven, and incredibly subtle." —Lambda Literary Review

"The Jungle Around Us unspools... with clean, digestible prose and stories that ambush the reader, stealthy in their impact. It follows numerous characters, primarily women (with a few men scattered throughout), and finds literal and metaphorical jungles in places as disparate as New York City and Mexico." —The Millions

"This masterful collection records the long psychic toll of the twentieth century's traumas, offering portraits of people in various kinds of exile: displaced from their countries or uneasy in their hometowns or somehow alien in their own bodies and minds. Anne Raeff's exquisite stories are remarkable for their combination of intimacy and reverence for the mysteries and private griefs her characters fold their lives around. Seldom have I read work so confident in the power of what's left unspoken and in the deep eloquence of gesture. The Jungle around Us is a haunting and breathtakingly beautiful book." —Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You

"Anne Raeff is a keen cartographer of human distances. The refugees in her finely measured stories―exiled from their homelands, from love affairs, from their own happiness―find compelling routes toward intimacy and purpose. This wise, thought–provoking collection left me feeling full of wonder." —Michael Lowenthal, author of Charity Girl and The Paternity Test

"With understated power, The Jungle around Us slips us deep into the lives of people displaced by circumstances, large and small, who are doing their earnest best in new territory. Observers at a remove (a student discovering a new way of seeing, a visitor suddenly alienated from her sister, a wandering lover, a researcher investigating the past in the Soviet Union), they peer through the scrim of everyday doings in a foreign land and foreign language to grapple with the mysteries we are to each other. The miracle of Raeff's stories is how the measured grace of her stripped–down prose clears the way for the richness of her characters' lived experience." —Tracy Winn, author of Mrs. Somebody Somebody

"This collection is destined to become a classic. Raeff illuminates without insisting, employing a delicate touch on the weightiest truths. Her characters, heartbreakingly real, navigate the aftermath of the terrible wrench of World War II, displacements of many sorts, and set out on quests for both place and a peace that arises all too rarely―displaying their humanity throughout. Elegant, compassionate, and blessedly wise, these stories are not only unforgettable, they are important for capturing lives we do not yet know." —Robin Black, author of Crash Course: Essays From Where Writing and Life Collide

"The stories in The Jungle around Us do not try to make sense of the world―they are the world. A world of uncanny sharpness that is as bold as it is striking in its uncompromising, haunting depictions of longing and uncertainty and grief and bliss. The jungle Anne Raeff proposes that we enter is, in reality, not around us, in the intricate destinations of displacement where this book takes place―from Bolivia to Austria, from Leningrad to Albuquerque, from Harlem to El Tambor―but within ourselves. The protagonists in these stories are commanded by loss and desire and uprootedness and the scalding need for human connection, but unlike those from any other work of fiction that might be too self–conscious of its own ambitions, they struggle handling these emotions. Raeff's characters are too complex, too fully fleshed out, too human to know what step to take next, and this is, perhaps, the biggest feat of many she has achieved with this ravishing collection. Her talent is rare and transfixing, and this book marks the arrival of a marvelous new voice." —Antonio Ruiz–Camacho, author of Barefoot Dogs

"Stirring in its subdued depiction of sexual longing and the desire to start over, Raeff's collection finds hope amid life's tangled vines." —Jonathan Fullmer, Booklist

Praise for Clara Mondschein's Melancholia

"Clara Mondschein's melancholia, or depression, arises ostensibly from her having being born in a concentration camp during World War II. Yet interestingly, this affecting tale by first novelist Raeff, herself the child of refugees from the war, does not depend on the horrors of the fictional camp, Pribor, somewhere in Czechoslovakia, to jolt her readers. In fact, the camp experiences are not the main point, and Clara is not the main protagonist. Of far more interest than this woman who lies in bed and refuses to come out and join her family for weeks on end are her cellist daughter, Deborah, one of the novel's two main narrators, and her mother, Ruth, who also narrates. The captivating story here is the account of Ruth's extraordinary life as she relates it to Tommy, a hospice patient who lies dying of AIDS. Finding much to identify with in Ruth's life, Tommy urges her to continue her tale every day when she comes to visit because it gives him 'something to fantasize about besides [my own] death.' Ruth relates the long life she has shared with her recently deceased husband, Karl, and as she does so, we feel the sweep of the century, from prewar Vienna through the Holocaust to present–day New York. Recommended for all literary collections where sensitive writing set against an historical backdrop is appreciated." —Library Journal

"Two generations of Holocaust survivors tell their grim, affecting tales in alternating chapters in this somber... first novel by short story author Raeff. The more interesting is the first person account of 85–year–old matriarch Ruth Mondschein, as told to a dying young man in the Christopher Street AIDS Hospice, to which Ruth treks most days from her apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Ruth's tale... is harrowing, and her voice luminously straightforward. The novel is rich in detail and insight." —Publishers Weekly