Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel Prize for this and her other books, but don’t let that stop you from reading this breathtaking collection. It’s as if Chekov and Gogol and Dostoevsky had a three way, and their love child died in the bloom of her youth while song birds, drunk on vodka-infused berries nabbed from a bowl by her bedside, sang dirges that melded with her fitful, fluttering soul into an ether that filled the lungs of these men and women laid waste by Chernobyl. Everybody here is lost, forgotten, sacrificed, forlorn, but they are so goddamned alive. When was the last time you had to stop reading a passage for a minute because it was so great you didn’t want it to end ? That happened over and over. The scope and depth of all it is overwhelming, and since I finished it tonight, I haven’t begun to put it in a critical context. But I’m a little drunk on the melancholy.