If you’re looking for a beach read this summer, watch out. Take Gina Ochsner’s The Russian DreamBook of Colour and Flight to the shore and you may end up burnt to a crisp–her story will suck you in and not let go. Gina is a literary heavyweight, in my opinion. She’s one of the finest literary writers around. Her short stories have appeared in places such as The New Yorker. She’s won the Flannery O’Connor Prize, the O. Henry Prize and two Oregon Book Awards. Yet I’ve never met such an unassuming or gracious writer as Gina. Her latest effort, a novel, is The Russian Dreambook of Colour and Flight, published first in the UK (Portobello Books, 2009) and now available in the States. Gina’s characters are poignant and grapple with the deepest of themes and emotions. My favorite of her short stories, “Articles of Faith,” from People I Wanted to Be (Houghton Mifflin Mariner Original, 2005) made me cry five times in the first three pages.
But back to the Russian DreamBook. It’s Gina’s debut novel, was shortlisted for yet another Oregon Book Award and her research is impeccable. Harper’s calls it “beautiful and unsettling,”and the New York Times wrote, “. . . she dives gracefully off the deep end and heads for the realm of the unpredictable.” I met Gina after emailing back and forth about her work–she lives in Oregon and teaches writing for Corban College and as an expert writing consultant for George Fox Evangelical Seminary’s doctoral program. Recently, The Oregonian profiled her. Gina’s no-bones attitudes toward her deep Christian faith was a testament to her strength as a person and as a writer who portrays her characters with grace, beauty and yes, unpredictability.
Gina’s previous books were both story collections that each won an Oregon Book Award: People I Wanted to Be and The Necessary Grace to Fall. Check out any or all of this wonderful writer’s work–whether you work on your tan or not.