Summary and book reviews of The Invention of Exile by Vanessa Manko

The Invention of Exile

A Novel

by Vanessa Manko

The Invention of Exile by Vanessa Manko X
The Invention of Exile by Vanessa Manko
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Aug 2014, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2015, 304 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Alta Ifland

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Through the unforgettable character of Austin Voronkov, Manko explores the little-known period in American history of the Palmer Raids and the far-reaching implications of exile and loss.

Austin Voronkov is many things. He is an engineer, an inventor, an immigrant from Russia to Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1913, where he gets a job at a rifle factory. At the house where he rents a room, he falls in love with a woman named Julia, who becomes his wife and the mother of his three children. When Austin is wrongly accused of attending anarchist gatherings his limited grasp of English condemns him to his fate as a deportee, retreating with his new bride to his home in Russia, where he and his young family become embroiled in the Civil War and must flee once again, to Mexico.

While Julia and the children are eventually able to return to the U.S., Austin becomes indefinitely stranded in Mexico City because of the black mark on his record. He keeps a daily correspondence with Julia, as they each exchange their hopes and fears for the future, and as they struggle to remain a family across a distance of two countries. Austin becomes convinced that his engineering designs will be awarded patents, thereby paving the way for the government to approve his return and award his long sought-after American citizenship. At the same time he becomes convinced that an FBI agent is monitoring his every move, with the intent of blocking any possible return to the United States.

Austin and Julia's struggles build to crisis and heartrending resolution in this dazzling, sweeping debut. The novel is based in part on Vanessa Manko's family history and the life of a grandfather she never knew. Manko used this history as a jumping off point for the novel, which focuses on borders between the past and present, sanity and madness, while the very real U.S-Mexico border looms. The novel also explores how loss reshapes and transforms lives. It is a deeply moving testament to the enduring power of family and the meaning of home.

CONNECTICUT
1913–1920

He arrived in the United States in 1913 on a boat named Trieste. His face open, the brow smooth, eyes with the at once earnest, at once insecure gaze of hopeful, wanting youth. He began work fast. First at the Remington Arms Company, making ammunition for the Russian Imperial Army, rising up the ranks to become an inspector of the Mosin-Nagant rifle and later working for the Hitchcock Gas Engine Company. In Bridgeport, Connecticut. His early mornings spent among the others. The hordes of men shuttling to and from factories in lines and masses of gray or black through the dim light of winter mornings and in the spring when the morning sun was like a secret, coy and sparkling, the water flashing on the sound.

They found each other though. Through all of that, they, the Russians, found each other. They learned to spot each other through mannerisms, glances. This was later. In 1919. Then, the restrictions came at work and in the boardinghouse.

"English! You ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. What are your definitions of home and family? What are Austin's? How do your definitions align or differ?

  2. What was your reaction to the interrogation scenes in Connecticut (pp. 20–37)? Do you think there was anything Austin could have done to sway the inquisitor's mind?

  3. How is the lighthouse symbolic in Austin's and Julia's lives? What about Julia's flooded garden

  4. Austin is very hopeful, to the point of obsession, that his inventions will aid him in reuniting with his family. How does the theme of invention work in his life and in the novel

  5. What is Anarose's role

  6. The storyline and perspective shift and jump over time and place. How does this structure inform the story

  7. Austin muses, "Paper is ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

It is hard to believe that Vanessa Manko hasn’t been an immigrant herself, given her ability to put herself in the shoes of one and imagine the humiliations and gradual descent into paranoia brought by years of living in a constant state of expectation.   (Reviewed by Alta Ifland).

Full Review (647 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.

Media Reviews

The Boston Globe
An achingly painful and all too relevant meditation on what can happen to identity when human beings are crammed inside an unforgiving container of politics, bureaucracy, and fear...[A] wonderful first novel.

New York Magazine
The summer's surest candidate for lit-hit crossover.

Publishers Weekly
[A] fine fiction debut… The beating heart of Manko's story is Austin's determination to be reunited with his family.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. A top-notch debut, at once sober and lively and provocative.

Author Blurb Colum McCann, author of Transatlantic and Let the Great World Spin
[An] unflinching portrait of how our lives are structured around the complications of geography, beauty and chance, and, at its core, it is a story about those who live in the double shadows of home and history.

Author Blurb Siri Hustvedt, author of What I Loved and The Summer Without Men
The Invention of Exile is an achingly immediate, sensuous, and psychologically acute novel about a man whose life has been suspended by the madness of American politics... Manko's tender, compassionate, and wise portrait of this man, who waits and waits and waits to return to the life he was meant to live, continues to reverberate inside me. I suspect I will carry him around with me for years to come.

Author Blurb Francisco Goldman, author of Say Her Name
Only writing like Vanessa Manko's, so finely tuned to subtle and nearly inexpressible emotions, to the whispers of deepest loneliness, to the inner-life of a man cut-off from family and country by the capricious machinery of politics and prejudice, can draw such a secret, marginal, puzzling life out of the shadows, and give it the vivid force and poetry of a universal myth... a beautiful, bewitching and profound novel.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Life In Red: Russia in the 1920s

Earthly SignsAustin Voronkov, the protagonist of Vanessa Mankov's The Invention of Exile, spends two years in the Soviet Union with his American wife, Julia: from 1920 to 1922. This timeframe is part of a difficult period in Russian history, the 1917-1922 civil war between the Bolshevik Red Army and the White Army. This period is rendered with heartbreaking intensity by the poet Marina Tsvetaeva in Earthly Signs: Moscow Diaries, 1917-1922 The book comprises notes from several diaries and fragmentary essays on various subjects, mixing memories of daily hardships with passionate comments on poetry and vivid descriptions of people, all told with uncommon energy for someone who has to fight for survival every single second. The notes, often ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Invention of Exile, try these:

  • A Map of Betrayal jacket

    A Map of Betrayal

    by Ha Jin

    Published 2015

    About this book

    More books by this author

    From the award-winning author of Waiting and War Trash: a riveting tale of espionage and conflicted loyalties that spans half a century in the entwined histories of two countries—China and the United States—and two families.

  • The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street jacket

    The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street

    by Susan J. Gilman

    Published 2015

    About this book

    In 1913, little Malka Treynovsky flees Russia with her family. Bedazzled by tales of gold and movie stardom, she tricks them into buying tickets for America. No sooner than they land does Malka find herself crippled - and yet survives to shape her own destiny.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Treeborne
    Treeborne
    by Caleb Johnson
    The Treeborne family has lived on The Seven – the local sobriquet for a seven-acre stretch of ...
  • Book Jacket
    Grace
    by Paul Lynch
    Harrowing. Gorgeous. Epic. Grace, Paul Lynch's coming of age novel about a young woman, is set ...
  • Book Jacket: The Perfectionists
    The Perfectionists
    by Simon Winchester
    We seek precision in our lives every day. We want to drive from home to work and work to home safely...
  • Book Jacket: Beauty in the Broken Places
    Beauty in the Broken Places
    by Allison Pataki
    Ernest Hemingway wrote that we are "strong at the broken places," and Allison Pataki found that to ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Twelve-Mile Straight by Eleanor Henderson

An audacious American epic set in rural Georgia during the years of the Depression and Prohibition.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Summer Wives
    by Beatriz Williams

    An electrifying postwar fable of love, class, power and redemption set on an island off the New England coast.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Clock Dance
    by Anne Tyler

    A delightful novel of one woman's transformative journey, from the best-selling and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win A Place for Us

A Place For Us

A deeply moving story of love, identity and belonging--the first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker's new imprint.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

H, W H A Problem

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.