A memoir equal parts refugee-coming-of-age story, feminist manifesto, and meditation on motherhood, displacement, gender politics, and art that follows award-winning writer Sophia Shalmiyev’s flight from the Soviet Union, where she was forced to abandon her estranged mother, and her subsequent quest to find her.
With a mesmeric voice and scathing vulnerability, Shalmiyev peels her past down to its hollow core ... Across time and geography, Shalmiyev stitches together the diffuse pieces of her fractured narrative in order to find out what it truly is that makes someone the right 'type' of woman, the right 'type' of mother—especially as she becomes a mother herself.
Shalmiyev has a lot to say... But what she says she says with so much I-am-woman-hear-me-roar abandon, it was all I could do not to avert my gaze out of delicacy for her, if not for myself ... [There are] are pointless, sloppy sentences, and they highlight the central problem of this book. Shalmiyev has plenty of genuine self-concern, but beyond herself she seems capable of thinking only in stereotypes; she can’t see beyond her own suffering let alone get her readers there.
An elegy for lost mothers and lost homes and a consideration of the complexity of national and religious identities and gender roles. A feminist framework underpins a narrative peppered with references to Western art and literature from ancient to modern times and extended by many thoughtful detours. The author’s own apparently dueling instincts as a mother and writer are examined with unflinching forthrightness.