Reyn weaves throughout Nadia’s story a compelling perspective on twenty-first century motherhood that ricochets between East and West ... Because physical and psychic separation exist between Nadia and Larisska through the bulk of the novel, a sense of loneliness permeates the narrative ... Reyn masterfully draws readers into the constancy of memory throughout the novel, making Ukraine and moments of Nadia’s past life just as present to Nadia as her daily life and work ... a history of a mother’s indomitable love, and the ability to, on a personal level, make peace.
Reyn’s dramatization of this asymmetrical relationship between a nearly assimilated Russian-Jewish employer, dwelling in what the novel calls 'la-la Brooklyn,' and a non-Jewish Ukrainian migrant worker in 'deep Brooklyn,' an hour away by train, adds complexity to the landscape of post-Soviet immigrant literature ... Reyn captures another painful aspect of the migrant experience: being an obvious outsider and a target for manipulation doesn’t prevent one from also being invisible ... Nadia is also compelling because she is flawed ... Reyn lets readers glimpse the potential for empathy and solidarity between two women who, for different reasons, cannot realize that potential.
The story, switching between Brooklyn, Ukraine, and Russia, is ungainly and often veers into melodrama, leaving the characters with little room for growth. Yet Reyn delivers an elegiac look at the rootlessness that accompanies immigration while also tenderly capturing long-distance mothering and the challenges that all parents face when letting go engenders a terrible sense of powerlessness.
... the opening of Irina Reyn’s new novel, Mother Country, offers a vivid reminder that Brooklyn is still a huge and complicated borough ... For American readers, Mother Country will provide an education into the complex relationship between Ukraine and Russia, and even between Ukrainians of different origins and loyalties. But it’s not solely a political novel. Reyn also interrogates what it means to be a mother, and how that definition and identity change—sometimes painfully so—over time.
Reyn deftly spins a web of heartache and memory around Nadia’s daily life. As she tries to handle the outrageous behavior of American toddlers and elderly Russian men with access to Viagra, her thoughts continually turn to her homeland ... A compassionate portrait of a mother aching with regrets yet brave enough to fight for her family.
[An] excellent exploration of the immigrant experience ... In beautiful and emotionally perceptive prose, Reyn probes the intimate ways cultures clash within individuals, forcing them to knit together disparate truths to make sense of the world, and provides a tender depiction of how mother-daughter bonds morph over time and space.