My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Genre: Historical Fiction
By now you all know I love historical fiction and when I first started using Edelweiss it is a bit of an understatement that I went a little request happy with pretty much an historical fiction novel my eyes flitted across, but this one stood out to me at first sight because of the cover, an envelope and a "postmark", very cool design, and yes I judged this book by its cover!
Austin Voronkov is a hardworking Russian living in the United States who generally goes about his business in a quiet, unassuming way. Austin leads what seems to be a lonely existence but he does keep busy not just with work but by attending social events like lectures and classes to improve his English, he even joins a few clubs, but deep down there is still this loneliness that you can feel coming from Austin up from off the pages but then he meets Julia.
Julia's father died and so Julia's mother lets out an extra room that they have for rent for extra income this financial predicament her mother finds herself in will change Julia's life forever because her mother lets the room to Austin. Becoming quite fond of each other they begin a general flirtation that turns into so much more. Promises are made that one day they will wed once Austin has saved enough for them to have a nice start to their new life together, but like all great love stories there is a catch or a problem that arises just when it seems like everything couldn't get any better and this happens for Austin and Julia when Austin is rounded up with a bunch of other Russians during raids to round up the growing "Red Menace". Imprisoned, mistreated, and interrogated Austin is soon lead into a false confession that he is an anarchist. Since Austin actually confessed to this he is automatically deported but Julia decides to marry him before he is to leave and she then travels with him back to Russia.
Austin and Julia soon learn that Russia is no longer the Russia Austin used to know but instead is a hot bed of revolution with the communist gaining new ground everyday and so it is not looking good for the Voronkov's to stay there. Fleeing for safety they travel lots of different places but settle in Mexico since it is so close to the United States and Julia is fighting very hard to win their way back into the states but there is so much red tape that they find themselves raising their three children there until finally the children and Julia are given visas and are allowed to return but they have to leave Austin behind in Mexico because he is not granted a visa because of his past.
Alone in Mexico Austin suffers greatly from his families absence but he doesn't give up hope as he constantly works on different designs and inventions that he thinks are brilliant enough to earn him a visa to the United States and back to his Julia and their children. Slowly the years roll by and still the answer is always no and slowly but surely Austin goes a bit mad from the stress and loneliness of it all. Pretty soon Austin's children are grown and Leo and Vera have come to Mexico to get their father a visa but again they are denied so they soon take matters into their own hands getting Austin fake papers and then they help him enter the United States illegally. Austin after all these years cannot figure out what held him back for so long and is quite confused as to why he didn't try to cross the border sooner.
An emotional read, Austin's decline is hard to take and he is just so far away from his family and on his own it is heartbreaking. Even though Vera and Leo come and get their dad and bring him to the U.S. it is already to late, the damage already done, all that loneliness and stress has driven their father mad and there is no coming back from it, he will always be this way. I will not be talking about the political issues in the book given the political issues involving the U.S./Mexican border presently I don't want a whole bunch of mean comments so I will keep my politics to myself however they are a huge focus in this book.
There were a few issues I had with the book, one of them is I didn't like how the book flip flopped so much in setting and time, but this did calm down a bit closer towards the end, I also didn't care for some of the narrative it just seemed to disjointed like it didn't fit which would be fine when it is the stuff about just Austin since he is foreign and doesn't speak English very well but I found this quite a bit throughout the whole book and for me it was just strange and made it harder to really grasp what the author was trying to convey to us, the reader.
Discover: A story about the way government policies and politics can affect one person, one family.
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