Fringing the Black Sea are a kaleidoscope of countries, some centuries old and others emerging only after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Through the stories of the people he meets there, Jens Muhling seeks to paint a picture of this cauldron of cultures and to understand the present against a backdrop of change stretching back to the arrival of Ancient Greek settlers and beyond. A fluent Russian speaker with a knack for gaining the trust of those he meets, Muhling's cast of characters, as diverse as the stories he hears, is ready to tell him their complex, contradictory, often fantastical tales, full of grief and legend. He meets descendants of the so-called Pontic Greeks, whom Stalin deported to Central Asia and who have now returned; Circassians, known from Tolstoy's Caucasus stories, who fled to Syria a century ago and whose great-great-grandchildren, now displaced, have returned to Abkhazia; and members of ethnic minorities: the Georgian Mingrelians, Turkish Lazis, or Bulgarian Muslims expelled to Turkey in the summer of 1989. Not to mention the molluscs and other species that have unsettled the delicate ecological balance of this unique body of water. Nowhere does the uneasy alliance of tradition and modernity seem starker, and there is no better writer to capture the diverse humanity of those who live there.