Tuesday, July 12, 2011
The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine - Alina Bronsky
The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine is narrated by Rosa - a spunky woman who has a comment for everything (hmmm, reminds me of quite a few Russian women I know.) Rosa finds that her only daughter, Sulfia, is mysteriously pregnant at 17 "from a dream." (The fact that this belief is hardly even questioned throughout the story makes me wonder if maybe there should have been a bit more "sex education" in the former Soviet Union...) Rosa attempts many "old world" remedies to abort her grandchild with the help of dwelling-mate Klavdia, but none work and 9-months later, Aminat is born. Rosa instantly falls in love with the child, who unlike her own daughter is beautiful - "Tartar through and through," - and essentially begins to raise her as her own. The rest of the book goes on to tell the story of the struggles these women go through as their lives change and eventually they end up in Germany where Sulfia is intended to marry a journalist who in reality has his eye on Aminat. But even though they are out of the Soviet Union, life doesn't get any easier, and adjusting to a new way of life is harder for the two older women.
The story ends on a fairly bittersweet note, I think. Rosa is a woman full of character at the beginning of the book and throughout, but towards the end, you can really sense how she has changed as a person based on the experiences that she has gone through. Towards the end, you really start to feel sorry for her and all hat she has endured.
Although a good story, and a fairly fast read, in my opinion (I read it in 3 days), The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine might be more appreciated by someone who has actually endured the struggle of emigration. Granted, I am myself an immigrant - coming to the United States at the age of almost 2 from the former Soviet Union - but I think someone that can actually recall the hardship and accurately compare/contrast lifestyles would really appreciate the little nuances in this book. For example, Rosa's bribery of figureheads with fruits and chocolates. Although I understand this logic based on stories from my parents and grandma about life in the "old country," I think someone like my mom - who came here at the age of 22 and can remember actually living through that use of logic - would be more appreciative of this story.