Set at the crossroads of Turkish, Persian and Russian cultures under the red flag of Communism in the late 1970s, The Orphan Sky reveals one woman’s struggle to reconcile her ideals with the corrupt world around her, and to decide whether to betray her country or her heart.
Leila is a young classical pianist who dreams of winning international competitions and bringing awards to her beloved country Azerbaijan. She is also a proud daughter of the Communist Party. When she receives an assignment from her communist mentor to spy on a music shop suspected of traitorous Western influences, she does it eagerly, determined to prove her worth to the Party.
But Leila didn’t anticipate the complications of meeting Tahir, the rebellious painter who owns the music shop. His jazz recordings, abstract art, and subversive political opinions crack open the veneer of the world she's been living in. Just when she begins to fall in love with both the West and Tahir, her comrades force her to make an impossible choice.
"The author deftly captures the paranoia and isolation of Red Russia... Leya's immersive novel speaks with authenticity. " — Publishers Weekly
"The Orphan Sky is several things, the most obvious of which are a love story (and rather a good one), a coming-of-age novel and a story of the struggle for personal and artistic freedom in the dying decade of the USSR. " — Asian Review of Books
"The story engages active readers who appreciate an intricate work of literature, and it rewards them with a wealth of suspense and intrigue, not to mention a swoon-worthy love story. Ella Leya reaches to the heart with The Orphan Sky, a grasp that's not likely to let go of its reader for some time." — Chicago Book Review
"The Orphan Sky is a gripping, forceful novel that compels the reader onward. Well written and edited, the colorful descriptions and poignant relationships are haunting. As visceral and exotic as any spy novel and as authentically convincing as The Kite Runner, The Orphan Sky adroitly marries Cold War history with intrigue and young love. " — New York Journal of Books
"The vivid details of the setting and music will engage readers... A strong choice for readers of historical fiction." — Library Journal
"Born in Baku, composer and singer turned first novelist Leya successfully depicts the grim realities of her birth city's Soviet era as she depicts a harsh coming-of-age." — Booklist