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Katha PollittGessen has little use for glorious pointless deaths or for the grand ideologies that have caused so many of them. What interests her is how people preserve their individuality and their humanity in deeply repressive societies, where if you want to talk openly with your best friend, it's a good idea to cross-country ski a few miles away from anyone who might overhear you. The friendship between Ester and Ruzya -- a stronger bond than marriage -- along with their children, their literary work and a talent for skepticism, helped them survive and eventually flourish through decades of fear and privation.
— The New York Times