Ten-year old Annette Gershon is content enough growing up in her father's delicatessen on Main Street Winnipeg, but for immigrant families scratching out a living in the Dirty Thirties, even subsistence is a delicate balance, easily upset. Everything changes when her parents decide to take the family "home" to the Soviet Union to escape the devastation of the collapsing capitalist economy.
Annette struggles to maintain her sense of who she is, first adapting to her life in Stalinist Odessa, then fleeing to Moscow, ahead of the Nazi occupation. But it is in the post-war years that her identity, and her very life, are threatened by the anti-Semitism of Stalinism's final years.
The Knife Sharpener's Bell is the story of a girl who tried to stop a train, but finds herself on the runaway train of historical events. It is a story about loyalty and betrayal, heroism and fear. What is most memorable is the empathy we feel for these characters who must make their way through some of the twentieth century's most tumultuous events.
The writing is infused with a poet's sensitivities to rhythm, image, and linguistic energy, yet it is also beautifully restrained-each image and each gorgeous observation is there for a reason; the entire story hums with the tension that arises from the taut, athletic language.
Rhea Tregebov was born in Saskatoon and raised in Winnipeg. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English at the University of Manitoba and then went on to graduate studies in Comparative Literature and English at Cornell and Boston University. She obtained a Masters Degree in English from BU, and then moved to Toronto. Tregebov worked for years as a freelance technical writer, and now teaches Creative Writing for Continuing Education at Ryerson Polytechnical University, works with high school students via the Internet through Writers in Electronic Residence, and edits adult and young adult fiction and non-fiction as well as poetry freelance. She has published five critically acclaimed collections of poetry: Remembering History (1982), winner of the Pat Lowther Award; No One We Know (1986), The Proving Grounds (1991), Mapping the Chaos (1995), and The Strength of Materials (2001). Poems from Mapping the Chaos received the Prairie Schooner Readers' Choice Award as well as the Malahat Review Long Poem Award. Tregebov has also written five popular children's picture books: The Extraordinary Ordinary Everything Room (1991), The Big Storm (1992), Sasha and the Wiggly Tooth (1993), Sasha and the Wind (1996), and What-If Sara (1999). Four of these have been translated into French. She is a member of PEN Canada, The League of Canadian Poets, The Writers' Union and CANSCAIP.