Aliocha is racing toward Vladivostok with other Russian conscripts packed on a trans-Siberian train. Soon after boarding, he decides to desert. Over a midnight smoke in a dark corridor of the train, the young soldier encounters an older French woman, Hélène, for whom he feels an uncanny trust. He manages through pantomime and a basic Russian that Hélène must decipher to ask for her help. As they hurry from the filth of his third-class carriage to Hélène’s first-class sleeping car, Aliocha becomes a hunted deserter and Hélène his accomplice with her own recent memories to contend with. Eastbound is both an adventure story and a duet of vibrant inner worlds. In evocative sentences gorgeously translated by Jessica Moore, De Kerangal tells the story of two unlikely souls entwined in a quest for freedom with a striking sense of tenderness, sharply contrasting the brutality of their surrounding world.