In Three Muses by Martha Toll (Regal House Publishing 2022), John Curtin survives the Holocaust by singing for the entertainment of the kommendant who murdered his family. He’s sent to America, probably by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, to be adopted by a family whose son was killed fighting the war. The nourishment, love, and kindness of his new parents allows him to thrive. Years later, John is forced by Dr Roth to relive the worst moments of his life during therapy he’s required to do as part of his psychiatric training. Meanwhile, after seven-year-old Katherine loses her mother, her aunt enrolls her in ballet classes, never realizing how it will change Katherine’s life. The first thing to change is her name – Boris Yanakov, the director and choreographer, changes her name to the more Russian-sounding Katya Symanova. He seduces Katya and makes her a star, but also controls her every movement. When John sees Katya perform in Paris in 1963, he’s bewitched and can’t stop thinking about her. The next time they meet, in New York, John thinks he’s found the love of his life, but Katya is still under Boris’s control. John’s experience with the three muses of Song, Discipline, and Memory is completely different than Katya’s, but they are both forced to claw their way through doubt, despair and loneliness.
Martha Anne Toll, whose debut novel, Three Muses, won the Petrichor prize for Finely Crafted Fiction, writes fiction, essays, and book reviews, and reads anything that’s not nailed down. Martha brings a long career in social justice to her work covering BIPOC and women writers. She is a book reviewer and author interviewer at NPR Books, the Washington Post, The Millions, and elsewhere; and publishes short fiction and essays in a wide variety of outlets. She has recently joined the Board of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. When she’s not interviewing or writing Martha likes to have lunch with friends, swim, walk, and spend time with her family. She lives just outside Washington D.C. area.