|"HONEST, TENDER, AND EXQUISITELY CRAFTED. A NOVEL TO SAVOR."|
Starred review, Kirkus Reviews
"[A]n enchanted meditation on poetry and life."
Forty rooms. Forty pocket-size passion plays. Forty choices. Some are clearly momentous: you know as you make them that they will alter the path of your life. Others seem small, and their implications become apparent only years later, when you can barely recall how and when it was that everything changed, and you wonder if it would have been different, if only you’d paid more attention.
We know Grushin’s protagonist only by her married name—Mrs. Caldwell—though we first meet her when she is not yet five, a precocious child of Moscow intellectuals whose apartment echoes with the voices of friends as they argue late into the night about art and history. We watch her grow into a young woman full of hopes and plans, all of life an adventure waiting to happen: she dreams of conversing with gods, of roaming the world free and unencumbered, of becoming an immortal poet. We follow her as she crosses an ocean—and then builds a life drastically different from any she ever imagined. Though at seventeen she is brave enough to launch herself into the unknown, as Mrs. Caldwell she will surrender her dreams and settle into the life of an American wife and mother. Raised to abjure the materialism of the West, she will gradually embrace its comforts.
Childhood promise. Youthful ambition. Adult compromise. When do the building blocks of life start boxing us in? Is one person’s tragedy another’s fulfillment? Mysterious and withholding, provocative and compelling, Grushin’s story forces us to recognize that a life is made up of many crossroads and few directional signals.
"The main character's inner life is rich with feeling . . . Complex psychological portrayal."