I'm always on the lookout for new books from Europa Editions - and when I saw this one, I snapped it up.
Alina Bronsky's first novel is hard to put down. It kept me up till one last night. There are so many books out there about murder and violence, but this story starts after the crime. Sascha watched her ex-stepfather Vadim shoot and kill her mother. Now she's seventeen and biding her time till Vadim gets out of jail, so she can kill him.
Her nine-year-old brother Anton thinks she has a good idea. He was there too. So was the toddler of the family, Alissa. They live in the Russian ghetto of Berlin, shunned by most of their neighbors for having such bad luck, but lovingly cooked for and cared for by their fat Russian cousin Maria.
Sascha is brash, angry, fearless, oddly witty, often kind - and brilliant at math, chess and languages. She's not interested in drugs or alcohol, but she sometimes makes aggressive use of sex. In a strange way, even at her most self-destructive, she's working intelligently at repairing her personal damage. Totally likeable, she hardly knows how to handle it when people do like her.
There are lots of other wonderful characters, too, flawed in ways that only make them more interesting. Despite the plethora of broken heads, hearts and windows in this book, the dialog is often quite funny and the mood curiously upbeat.
I have to assume the translation is excellent, because Alina Bronsky comes across as a very fine writer with a truly original turn of mind. Hope she's at work on another book!