Book Review

September '14

The Invention of Exile (Hardcover)
Vanessa Manko

Austin Voronkov is Russian.  He has fled his violent homeland for the safety of Bridgeport Connecticut, where he work as an engineer, and falls in love with Julia.  Austin stays connected with his homeland by joining Russian social clubs and lecture societies, and in 1920, he and others are arresed at a club, then deported on the assumption that they are Communist sympathizers. Under duress, Austin inadvertently confesses to being an anarchist.  He and Julia move to Paris, then to other parts of Europe, virtually stateless as they begin their family and try to find a home.  Because of the anarchy charges and deportation, no nation will accept him except Mexico, where they eventually settle.  As he struggles to get his family back to the U.S., he is advised that sending his wife and children ahead of him will make it easier for him to seek U.S. citizenship.  It should only take a month or two, he is told.  But it takes much longer for him to be reunited with his beloved family.  The writing in this debut novel is excellent, and the author is a wonderful story teller.  This is NOT a fast paced beach read that fits into that wonderful "light but good" category.  It is what I would call "a thinker."  You want to read this slowly, appreciate the writing, identify with what Austin is going through.  I had so many questions at the end that I want to re-read it, which means it will be great for book club discussion.