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Extended Audio Sample The Mirrored World: A Novel Audiobook, 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: August 2012 ISBN: 9780062204875
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The critically acclaimed author of The Madonnas of Leningrad (“Elegant and poetic, the rare kind of book that you want to keep but you have to share” —Isabel Allende), Debra Dean returns with The Mirrored World, a breathtaking novel of love and madness set in 18th century Russia. Transporting readers to St. Petersburg during the reign of Catherine the Great, Dean brilliantly reconstructs and reimagines the life of St. Xenia, one of Russia’s most revered and mysterious holy figures, in a richly told and thought-provoking work of historical fiction that recounts the unlikely transformation of a young girl, a child of privilege, into a saint beloved by the poor.
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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 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 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 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 Penny | 1/23/2014

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

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Margaret Sankey | 1/10/2014

    " The premise of this book is very interesting--the political, social and religious milieu that created the Holy Fool Xenia in 18th century Russia, a time period of extreme crisis spanning the 7 Years War, the death of Elizabeth, the coup of Catherine II and the formation of the elaborate court culture in St. Petersburg. However, by being told from the first-person narration of Xenia's rather conventional cousin (although Dasha married an Italian eunuch musician who promptly died, and then rushed through the last 30 years of her life adopting stray people Xenia literally left on her doorstep), the story is curiously flat. I wanted to like this a lot more than I actually did. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Trudi | 1/10/2014

    " Well written but not a particular favorite of mine. Set in 18th century Russia, it is the story of a young woman who goes mad when her husband dies. Subsequently she devotes her life to helping the poor and destitute of St. Petersburg. Her life is told in conjunction with that of her cousin. I didn't realize when reading the book that it was the fictional account of the life of St. Xenia of Russia. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sarah | 1/7/2014

    " This book, like The Madonnas of Leningrad, is such a beautifully rich yet quiet book. A grand story that unfolds gently leaving lingering questions as all good stories should. Though the story includes tragedy and heartache it also felt like a balm to the soul. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Shawn | 12/13/2013

    " A simple and lovely story imagining the story of Saint Xenia. I recommend it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lynn | 11/16/2013

    " It wasn't like her others. The pages didn't flow. But a good book. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Brittany | 11/10/2013

    " Thought the description of the book was misleading in the fact it said it was all about St. Xenia and her life as a saint of the poor and unfortunate, however the book really focuses on her cousins outlook and her life more than i felt it portrayed Xenia. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Delight | 9/2/2013

    " This was a solid, entertaining read about a woman in Russia and her life. I enjoyed it. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Barb | 4/13/2013

    " I found this a hard to get into book. I did not feel a "bond" with Xenia, or any charter in the book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mary Swift | 11/30/2012

    " Good book, strange ending. not as good as her first book. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Jill | 8/23/2012

    " This was the first book that I have read by this author and I have to say that I did not like this book at all. It was just extremely boring and the plot was bad. I would classify this book as a short story versus a book. "

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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.

About the Narrator

Yelena Shmulenson is an actress and Earphones Award–winning audiobook narrator. She emigrated to the United States with her family in 1993 from Ukraine. Her theater credits include five seasons with the Folksbiene, two seasons at the Ellis Island Theatre, Enemies: A Love Story in Russian, and The Essence: A Yiddish Theater Dim Sum. On film, she can be seen in The Good Shepherd, Romeo & Juliet in Yiddish, Fire at the Triangle, and A Serious Man.