In attempting to bring a suspected war criminal to justice, a lawyer wrestles with power, accountability, and her Jewish identity.
In a quiet forest in Belarus, two boys make a gruesome find that reveals a long-kept secret: the mass grave where Stalin’s police buried thousands of murder victims in the 1930s. The results of the subsequent investigation—30,000 dead—has far-reaching effects, and across the Atlantic in Toronto, young lawyer Leah Jarvis finds herself tasked with an impossible case: the trial of elderly Stefan Drozd, a former member of Stalin’s forces, who fled his crimes in Kurapaty for a new identity in Canada. Though Leah is convinced of Drozd’s guilt, she needs hard facts. Determined to bring him to justice, she travels to Belarus in search of witnesses—and finds herself piecing together another set of evidence: her mother’s death, her father’s absence, the shadows of her Jewish heritage. Lyrical and wrenching by turns, The Singing Forest is a profound investigation of memory, truth, and the stories that tell us who we are.
PRAISE FOR THE SINGING FOREST
“The Kurapaty mass grave near Minsk, Belarus, was used to hide the bodies of thousands murdered by Stalin’s secret police from 1937 to 1941. This novel of witness tells the story of the prosecution of a war criminal hiding in Canada. There is self-discovery. There is torture and false confession. There are affidavits and dark nights of the soul. There is Leah’s painful search for witnesses driven by her “damaged, obstinate heart.” And searingly, as McCormack writes, there are the voices of the dead who cry out, “We are here. We are waiting.” Know this history through your heart, through the empathetic imagination of McCormack’s fiction.”—Kim Echlin, author of The Disappeared
“In this hypnotically layered novel, a young Jewish lawyer, Leah Jarvis, is assigned the case of Stefan Drozd, a nonagenarian war criminal facing deportation for acts he committed as a minor in Belarus. McCormack treats her characters with unnerving fairness, balancing terror with beauty, a brutal childhood with an odd and loving one, and somehow squeezing out of the reader sympathy for Drozd—until horror precludes it. Deeply intelligent and deeply moral, The Singing Forest shows that, like glass, truth is amorphous. It also makes the case that, though ‘there is no general duty to rescue’ in law, a family might save a child, as it did Leah. Or it may, like Drozd, make a monster of him.”—Caroline Adderson, author of A History of Forgetting and A Russian Sister