Hotel Moscow: A Novel
by Talia Carner
Paperback- $14.25

From the author of Jerusalem Maiden comes a mesmerizing, thought-provoking novel that tells the riveting story of an American woman—the ...

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  "Doing Business with Russian Women" by Betty56 (see profile) 08/30/15

This is one of those rare books that I wanted to rush through because it had me so totally engrossed in the story. I felt the fear and intensity as unbelievable incidents were described. But once I reached the last few pages I found myself slowing down. On one hand I wanted to quickly read those pages to find out what would happen. But on the other hand I did not want the story to end.

Brooke Fielding, an ambitious young investment manager, accepts an invitation to travel to Moscow as part of a team to teach entrepreneurial skills to the Russian women. While eager to share of herself with the women she is also apprehensive. Her parents were born in Russia and escaped from the pogroms against the Jews. Her mother was the only survivor from her family as the others died in a concentration camp. Her father’s first wife and three children were killed. Thus, Brooke has grown up hearing of the anti-Semitism in Russia.

The story begins in 1993 just weeks after the fall of Communism. Left as a country with no laws, the Duma is busy making up laws as they go. However Yeltsin is frustrated and impatient with them and fires them. As the members of their Duma are democratically elected, Yeltsin did not have the authority to fire them. Thus, a stand-off develops between the members of the Duma and Yeltsin as he calls in the Army to remove the Duma.

The entire team encounters MAJOR culture shock. As Communist control ended, theft and gangs quickly filled the void. “Connections” and bribes were required for the simplest of services. Corruption has taken over. Time after time, the Russians are impressed by how white the Americans’ teeth are. Many of them have rotted teeth but proudly support one gold tooth as it shows they can afford it. People stand in line for hours, sometimes days, for food, gasoline, money from the banks. The descriptions of the living conditions of most Russians were shocking. The photos of “communal apartments” in the back of the book were definitely eye-opening.

Svetlana is assigned as the group’s translator. She knows several languages and would have been translator for the Foreign Minister. However, she was labeled as having “loose morals” after being gang-raped. Dr. Olga Rozanova, a sociologist from the Institute for Social Research, is ashamed that the Americans are so poorly treated in her homeland. Brooke forms friendships with these women, but can the friendships survive the anti-Semitism of the culture? And how can she teach Western capitalism to a people who are afraid to even trust their neighbors?

There is a good sampling of the male characters. There are primarily four Russian male characters and they are very different from each other.

Brooke’s early family history is revealed slowly, like layers of an onion being peeled away, layer by layer. Being in Russia makes her face parts of her past that she had been running from her entire life. There is a possible love interest for her but she is very distrustful of men. Her past relationships are also slowly revealed making it understandable why she is so distrustful of men. Brooke carries secrets that she is afraid of revealing. One of the secrets could cost her her job. She also struggles with the question of “What does it mean to be Jewish?” Should she hide her Jewish identity in this land that is rampantly anti-Semitic?

Ms. Carner visited Russia in 1993 and experienced some of the events told in the book. Her descriptions made me think of several social issues. Is this the way all oppressed societies behave once they get that first taste of freedom? I was amazed at the pride the Russian people still exhibited toward their country, no matter how corrupt it had become. Yet underneath it all, people are people, proving that compassion and trust still exist in the most lawless of societies. I also looked at my own Jewishness, just as Brooke was forced to look at hers. In spite of the corruptness, this was a beautiful story. I look forward to reading her other three books.

 
  "" by hernanka (see profile) 07/31/17

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