“Sometimes I think I’m the only one in our neighborhood with any worthwhile dreams. I have two, and there’s no reason to be ashamed of either one. I want to kill Vadim. And I want to write a book about my mother.”
Broken Glass Park
By Alina Bronsky
Sascha Naimann lives in a housing project in Berlin. Her life is filled with watching other Russian immigrants live in the periphery of German society but most of all her world revolves around taking care of her two young siblings and plotting her revenge on Vadim, the stepfather who killed her mother.
Sascha’s mother was a Russian immigrant who thrived by providing help to other immigrants but was somewhat naive and easily fell into a troubled relationship with Vadim. She finally gets out of the relationship and is moving ahead with her life, but fueled by jealousy and rage Vadim kills her and her new boyfriend. When Vadim is sent to jail, his cousin Marina moves in with Sacha and the children to help them.
Despite the tragedy Sacha has lived through, what keeps her going is her dream of killing Vadim, but one day she reads a newspaper article with a more forgiving tone about Vadim and Sascha goes to confront the writer. What she finds is a way to give voice to the injustice she has carried as she speaks up for herself and she finds understanding from the editor who befriends her and steps in to help her over the course of the novel.
Sacha is such a complex character. At times she seems a bit childish, especially when reveling what she plans for Vadim but then there are times when she comes across as a girl wise beyond her years. Despite the fact that Marina is older and there to take care of her and her siblings, Sascha easily manipulates Marina, often threatening her to get her way.
I found this book to have such wonderful insight into the lives of children of immigrant parents who are often thrust in the role of adults as they become translators and problem solvers to the families who still don’t understand the new ways of their host country.
There was one plot point which I didn’t like so much, a love triangle that develops but even that became a non issue for me as I really liked the characters, and any little nitpicks I have are blown away by the unraveling of the plot and the ending. I sort of expected a different ending but I found what Bronsky had in store was something hopeful and with a great sense of freedom.
After reading this book I can see why it has garnered so much praise in Europe and I can say this is probably going to end up as one of my top reads of the year.
Source: Advance Review Copy