Thursday, October 14, 2010

Moonlight in Odessa

Janet Skestien Charles
(received from Goodreads)

Daria is a clever girl. She has a degree in engineering, speaks Hebrew, Russian and English and is hopelessly suck in Odessa - A city as renown for it's beauty as it is for it's rampant poverty and form Soviet status. When she finds a job at a Israeli shipping firm, but her new boss David keeps not so sublet hinting that in exchange for her high wages, new electronics and constant gifts will eventually come at a higher price. Finding a way out of sleeping with her boss is easier then expected, and to cover any possibility that David will send her packing Daria starts moonlighting at a mail-order bride website, using her English to translate for the woman on the site. When she is forced to choose between a life in America and love in the Ukraine, Daria makes a hard choice - but was it the right one?

I really enjoyed Janet Skeslien Charles' debut novel. She brings Odessa vividly to life through Daria's love for the city, but doesn't present it with rosed colored glasses. It's obvious that life is hard for Daria and those like her. Everything about Daria and her life of Odessa is heartbreaking and sweet at the same time. When something goes wrong, her Boba has something up her sleeve to make her feel better.

When Daria starts working at the Mail Order Bride agency things take a turn. The novel is still interesting but the introduction of American characters changes the dynamic.  Of course all that is seen are American Men, but as Daria is the only one who speaks English well enough to understand them she ends up translating for crude and terrible people, but this doesn't matter to anyone. These men are their tickets out of poverty.

While Daria has a solid head on her shoulders, she falls for a less than perfect American and as the facade of a perfect life fades away, so does most of the novels charms. Daria is still strong willed, but her life loses the spark that made it interesting. There's a good 40 pages where I was reading more as an obligation then out of pleasure, but in the end I'm glad I fought through.

Really this was a great book with an interesting perspective. It's worth a spot on your TBR, I don't think you'll regret it.

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