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Mannequin Girl

A Novel

Ellen Litman (Author)

Overview | Inside the Book

A heartfelt and deftly told coming-of-age story, Mannequin Girl captures the bleakness of Soviet Russia and the hopeful turmoil of adolescence.

"A perfect little figure," he says. "Our mannequin girl." She knows who mannequin girls are. They are in her grandmother's Working Woman magazines, modeling flouncy dresses and berets. "Bend," he tells her, and she does, so pliant, so obedient."

Growing up in Soviet Russia, Kat Knopman worships her parents, temperamental Anechka and soft-hearted, absent-minded Misha. Young Jewish intellectuals, they teach literature at a Moscow school, run a drama club, and dabble in political radicalism. Kat sees herself as their heir and ally. But when she's diagnosed with rapidly-progressing scoliosis, the trajectory of her life changes and she finds herself at a different institution—a school-sanatorium for children with spinal ailments. Confined to a brace, surrounded by unsympathetic peers, Kat embarks on a quest to prove that she can be as exceptional as her parents: a beauty, an intellect, and free spirit despite her physical limitations, her Jewishness, and her suspicion that her beloved parents are in fact flawed. Can a girl with a crooked spine really be a mannequin girl, her parents’ pride and her doctors’ and teachers’ glory? Or will she prove to be something far more ordinary—and, thereby, more her own? An unforgettable heroine, Kat will have to find the courage to face the world and break free not only of her metal brace but of all the constraints that bind her.

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • March 2014
  • ISBN 978-0-393-06928-0
  • 5.8 × 8.6 in / 352 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Endorsements & Reviews

“[A] tender, bittersweet coming-of-age tale.” — Andrea Walker, People

“Coming of age is pretty tough as it is. Now imagine going through it in a back brace. And in Soviet Russia. In her beautiful and tender novel, Ellen Litman shows the pain, awkwardness and isolation of adolescence better than anybody else.” — Lara Vapnyar

“Ellen Litman has written an entrancing and evocative novel about a girl who is always torn between the ordinary and the extraordinary, the rash and the rational. Kat is a wonderfully vivid character and I loved reading about her perilous years as a mannequin girl. If only they didn’t have to end, at least for the reader.” — Margot Livesey

“Ellen Litman notices and captures details that electrify her writing. Her novel's premise is fascinating and its execution is skillful. Kat Knopman is a protagonist like none other I've come across.” — Liz Moore

“[This] coming of age story has a universality that rings true and poignant… [A] well crafted autobiographical novel… compelling.” — Penny Metsch, Jewish Book Council

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