This is a very moody and atmospheric little book about the complexities of female relationships, particularly mothers and daughters. It was displayed at the library (I am easily suggestible) and the author is a writing professor at a local university so I thought I would give it a go.
Fearful of the political climate and worried about continuing to afford managing her daughter’s diabetes care, single mother Nadia and her 20 year old daughter, Larissa, plan to emigrate to the United States from the Ukraine.
When Larissa’s visa is denied but Nadia’s is not, she makes the decision to go without her daughter, hoping to eventually secure a visa for her once she gets settled in New York City.
Left behind, Larissa is now forced to begin taking care of herself and her health without the safety net of her over protective mother. While the wait for her visa turns from days to months to years, hostility erupts in the Ukraine. Harboring resentment towards the mother she now feels has abandoned her, Larissa is trapped in the middle of war zone while her mother is a world away in Brooklyn.
Nadia struggles to create and maintain a stable home environment by working two jobs. One as the nanny for a Russian born mother and the other as a health care helper for elderly Soviet immigrants. Thinking her hard work will persuade the government to finally process her daughter’s application, Nadia keeps her head down and plows on year after year. When communication between the two breaks down as the war escalates in the Ukraine, Nadia becomes increasingly desperate to get her daughter out, even attempting to secure a fiancé visa for her through a dating web site.
A stickler for the rules, Nadia finds herself in a position where there is no longer a playbook. The structure that she finds so comforting, no longer supports her and she is forced to reckon with a daughter that is now a grown woman with ideas of her own. Desperately clinging to the life she envisioned for the two of them in New York, Nadia must rewrite her story as her daughter is already establishing one of her own.
For the most part, I enjoyed the book. The novel is full of vividly drawn characters, particularly the women whose relationships fill the pages: mothers and daughters, sisters and co-workers, friends and neighbors. I only have a cursory knowledge about the current and historical conflicts between Russia and the Ukraine so that aspect of the narrative was very interesting to me. Reyn does a great job of portraying Nadia’s deep connection to her homeland and her anguish over its destruction.