Genre: Historical Fiction/Contemporary Fiction
Source: Received from Amazon Vine program
“After the fall of the Soviet Union, Stalina Folskaya’s homeland is little more than a bankrupt country of broken dreams. She flees St. Petersburg in search of a better life in America, leaving behind her elderly mother and the grief of the past. A trained chemist in Russia, but disillusioned by her prospects in the US, she becomes a maid at The Liberty, a “short-stay” motel on the outskirts of Hartford. Able to envision beauty and profit even here, Stalina convinces her boss to let her transform the motel into a fantasy destination. Business skyrockets and puts the American dream within her sights. Obsessed with avenging her family while also longing for a new life, Stalina is about a woman whose imagination—and force of personality—will let her stop at nothing.”I have to admit that the first thing that led me to select this novel was the fact that much of it takes place in Connecticut. Not too many books are set in this location and as that is where I was born and raised I have an affinity for good old CT. I also have read very, very little on Russia, so I was interested in that setting as well. The story shifts back and forth between Stalina in the present, 1990’s-2000’s, in Connecticut to her past in Russia. I also loved that it was set in a “short stay” motel – mostly for the cast of characters that would come through the establishment and the crazy things that happened to them.
Through the shifts back to her past in Russia we get to see some of what it was like to live in Stalinist Russia. We also get to see what effect that early life has on characters that immigrated to the United States. Stalina comes into contact with several friends from her homeland while in the States – which initially felt a little far-fetched, but I guess it is possible.
The story is told in the first person with Stalina talking to the reader. She tells it like it is and doesn’t mince her words. Through the prose you get the feel that this is being told by an individual whose first language is not English, which adds to the believability of the story and the character of Stalina.
This was certainly not a heavy read and was more of a fun romp. It isn’t very plot driven, mostly centering around characterization. It focuses primarily on the motel that she is working at with the historical thrown in here and there – but that is not to say that I did not learn anything, like this tidbit:
“He was holding up his right hand showing a mangled index finger. In his youth it was common for young men to chop off their trigger fingers or shoot wax into their leg veins to make them varicose to escape serving in the czar’s army” (pg 31)
All in all a quick and enjoyable read. You could likely devour this in one sitting.
You can visit Rubin’s website for additional information about the book. There is a great article that I found where the author discusses what led her to write this novel. You can check it out here.
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