Mark O. (Wenatchee, WA)
Surviving with grace
Like the labels on wine bottles, this book has flavors of Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground and of Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate with a hint of Douglas Adams' The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. The setting is a Russia so squalid that people are almost feral. The inhabitants of the story live in a derelict apartment building. Daily life has its price, especially for use of the latrine in the courtyard of the apartment building. One of the characters is Undead, not as a sexy vampire but simply harder to get rid of than athlete’s foot. Reading this book took a long time, not because it is literary fiction (and so more about character than plot) but because I stopped to take lots of notes - quotes to add to my commonplace book and examples of gorgeously-constructed writing. One of the characters keeps a notebook always at hand (we get an occasional look at the contents), a reminder to all of us readers and writers to Pay Attention. The apartment building is a microcosm of the Russian melting pot but the older inhabitants haven’t melted and so have the solace and burden of ancestral identities. Perhaps the best gifts of this book are the reminders that dreams are the most substantial things we can have and that color can be found in the drabbest places, if looked for.
Kate S. (arvada, CO)
Quite a Read. I Loved it!
The title alone was appealing to me; the book did not disappoint. The author is certainly gifted, and has a wonderful way with words. I enjoyed how each chapter was written from a different characters point of view. Many readers have stated how it was depressing or hard to read. To me, it followed real life. A life many of us cannot imagine. People are unpredictable, they react differently under stress. I think the character Tanya stated it perfectly. "Whether we are savage or civilized, I can"t say. But we are authentic, this much I know." I think it would make a wonderful book for book clubs. Good discussion, good characters,a Russia many of us know little about.
Cheri W. (Grand Rapids, MN)
One of those Books that Leaves a Mark
I loved this book! And why, because it was simple, well-written with extraordinary language, and just one of those books you hate to finish. The main characters are strong, real women who face day to day in regular ways. There is no super powers or descriptions of snide out of this word antics, just regular women trying their best to survive the lemons life gives. I loved that.
I loved that Tanya, a heavy-set girl, kept her head in the clouds even when the earth threatened to bring her back down. Olga, an older mom, kept her wits about her as her life continues to spiral out of her control. Which is the way it is. How many of us have full control?
So many books written show the women as either a control-freak or shy and afraid. This book shows women and men as they are in a situation they did not choose (the downturn of the Russian economy) and how they, like us, live everyday by getting up doing our thing and going home. Very Good Book, Highly recommend it! One of those books you continue to revisit long after the book covers are closed.
Kathy S. (DeForest, WI)
The story was extremely interesting, but my favorite thing with this book was what I learned about the Russian culture. We are very blessed here in the U.S. and we often forget that.
Lori J. (Nutter Fort, WV)
Dreambook was entertaining to read. I am not very familiar with Russian culture, but a relative recently spent 3 months in Moscow, and his views of the Russian population's collective psyche were mirrored in the book. Recommended reading.
Lisa E. (Cincinnati, OH)
Engaging but Unsatisfying
Gina Ochsner has created several engaging characters in this book set in post-Soviet Russia--Olga, the translator still pining for her lost husband; Tanya, the young woman who writes beautifully about color but is unbearably lonely; and Azade, whose husband died but won't leave her alone. We come to care about all of the characters, but the ending--pat but yet unbelievable at the same time--is deeply unsatisfying.
Jan B. (Driggs, ID)
Russian Dreambook of Color & Flight
Here is a story of a group of folks who are neighbors in a derelict apartment building in Russia. In this depressed part of the world, truth is considered too depressing, so it is changed. Life is not even decent enough for indoor plumbing, or even paychecks to happen despite hours of work. A museum of replicas, an odd juxtaposition of icons to deformed foetuses, plays a central part in this story, as several of the characters "work" there.
The characters are incredible! I loved how the author created these people who must live in their heads, and in their dreams because of the depravity of their real lives. When one of the characters dies from a leap from the roof, and comes back as a ghost we fall into the world of magical realism. What he brings is backstory, love from the harshest of places, and the truth.
The writing is wonderful. Her characters are full of instinct and survival. I loved these people who live in such a dark place, yet with a bit of magic and lots of character from them the story soars above their harrowing part in the world.
When I finished reading, I immediately picked it up to re-read again.