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Extended Audio Sample The Mirrored World: A Novel, by Debra Dean Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (366 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Debra Dean Narrator: Yelena Shmulenson Publisher: HarperCollins Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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The bestselling author of The Madonnas of Leningrad returns with a breathtaking novel of love, madness, and devotion set against the extravagant royal court of eighteenth-century St. Petersburg.

Born to a Russian family of lower nobility, Xenia, an eccentric dreamer who cares little for social conventions, falls in love with Andrei, a charismatic soldier and singer in the Empress's Imperial choir. Though husband and wife adore each other, their happiness is overshadowed by the absurd demands of life at the royal court and by Xenia's growing obsession with having a child—a desperate need that is at last fulfilled with the birth of her daughter. But then a tragic vision comes true, and a shattered Xenia descends into grief, undergoing a profound transformation that alters the course of her life. Turning away from family and friends, she begins giving all her money and possessions to the poor. Then, one day, she mysteriously vanishes.

Years later, dressed in the tatters of her husband's military uniform and answering only to his name, Xenia is discovered tending the paupers of St. Petersburg's slums. Revered as a soothsayer and a blessed healer to the downtrodden, she is feared by the royal court and its new Empress, Catherine, who perceives her deeds as a rebuke to their lavish excesses. In this evocative and elegantly written tale, Dean reimagines the intriguing life of Xenia of St. Petersburg, a patron saint of her city and one of Russia's most mysterious and beloved holy figures. This is an exploration of the blessings of loyal friendship, the limits of reason, and the true costs of loving deeply.

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Quotes & Awards

  • The Mirrored World explores the mysteries of love and grief and devotion. Against a vivid backdrop of eighteenth century St. Petersburg and Catherine the Great’s royal court, the woman who would become St. Xenia is brought fully to life. Is there a more imaginative, elegant storyteller than Debra Dean?”

    Ann Hood, bestselling author of The Knitting Circle

  • “Love affairs, rivalries, intrigues, prophecy, cross-dressing, madness, sorrow, poverty—The Mirrored World is a litany of both the homely and the miraculous. Intimate and richly appointed, Debra Dean’s Imperial St. Petersburg is as sumptuous and enchanted as the Winter Palace.” 

    Stewart O’nan, bestselling author of Last Night at the Lobster

  • “For those familiar with the story of St. Xenia, this is a gratifying take on a compelling woman. For others, Dean’s vivid prose and deft pacing make for a quick and entertaining read.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “With evocative, rich prose and deep emotional resonance, Debra Dean delivers a compelling and captivating story that touches the soul. Truly a wonderful read.”

    Garth Stein, bestselling author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

  • “In Debra Dean’s skilled hands, history comes alive…Though the world she creates is harsh and cold at times, it is the warmth at its center—the power of love—that stays with you in the end.”

    Miami Herald

  • “Dean’s novel grows more profound and affecting with every page.” 


  • “Yelena Shmulenson reads the story with a Russian accent, which enhances this atmospheric story.”


Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Ms. S........... | 2/20/2014

    " I was pleasantly reminded of aspects of my heritage by the way Dean peppered her text with crumbs of detail, metaphor, and emotion meaningful to those of Russian descent. But, I felt that the story wasn't complete at the end of the book. Was this purposeful? Probably. Will people like me crave more completion? Probably! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Vicki Johnson | 1/29/2014

    " After reading the first chapter of this book, I put it down and said aloud 'I think I'm going to enjoy this'. Indeed I did. The world of 18th Century Russia is brought vividly to life. The story of 'Saint' Xenia is told through the eyes of her cousin, thus enabling the question of saintliness vs. madness to arise. Just where is the line between sainthood and lunatic? The history was fascinating and I loved disappeaing into the other time and place presented in this book. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Walt | 1/27/2014

    " I thought this book was just OK. The characters are deep and interesting, and the context is well-drawn. But I just couldn't get into the story all that much. It was OK, it just wasn't anything special. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Penny | 1/23/2014

    " Dark, unsettling story set in 18th century Russia. Characters were well developed, I enjoyed the perspective of the story. "

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About the Author

Debra Dean is the author of The Madonnas of Leningrad and Confessions of a Falling Woman. She lives in Miami and teaches in the creative writing program at Florida International University.