By: Anna Solomon
Publisher: Riverhead Books (Penguin)
Publication Date: September 2011
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: September 8, 2011
This truly stunning debut will have many readers speaking about the beauty, skill, talent, and power that this brand new author possesses.
Minna Losk is a sixteen-year-old girl who works as a maid-servant in the poverty of Odessa. After a hard beginning in work and in life, Minna learns she is to go to America as a mail-order bride. To do so, she must present herself for a full physical before leaving the country and heading to the “free” shores, and that one moment alone is enough to scare anyone to death. But Minna is determined to find a better life, as she gets on the boat and soon finds herself locked in a horrific journey across the sea
Upon arrival, a sense of renewed faith appears in Minna’s soul, and she is so thankful to finally be in the land that she has dreamed about for so long. Minna is so looking forward to a kind, loving husband, wealth, and a place to call home where she can be happy and raise her children.
As with all things in life, Minna quickly finds that her husband, Max, is far older than she is, and didn’t even have the decency to break away from work to pick her up and escort her to her new home. In fact, it is Max’s younger brother who arrives - a handsome, truly lovely young man - who immediately tries to make Minna feel at home.
Upon arriving at their destination in South Dakota, Minna finds a rigid Orthodox man who certainly doesn’t seem to like Minna’s Jewish heritage one bit; yet with her fair skin and blue eyes, she seems to pass his inspection. The house is one-room and is a complete mess. So much for the wealth. And the hard work that Minna must put in every day is more like the work required of a slave, not a wife. Add to that the desolate country and very rude townspeople, and Minna soon finds that all her dreams of America were completely false, and she is now stuck in a situation even worse than the one she left back home.
The author does an outstanding job of showing every aspect of history, and how incredibly difficult and frightening it was to be a mail-order bride. Hearts will go out to Minna as they watch this young girl fall in love with another, and find the strength and power to keep her head above water in a world that is forcing her to drown.
Quill Says: A powerful debut with a lovely romance, as well as a very real tale of poverty and dreams that turn into nightmares.