Starred reviews from Library Journal and Publishers Weekly
Award-winning author Irina Reyn explores what it means to be a mother in a world where you can't be with your child
Nadia's daily life in south Brooklyn is filled with small indignities: as a senior home attendant, she is always in danger of being fired; as a part-time nanny, she is forced to navigate the demands of her spoiled charge and the preschooler's insecure mother; and as an ethnic Russian, she finds herself feuding with western Ukrainian immigrants who think she is a traitor.
The war back home is always at the forefront of her reality. On television, Vladimir Putin speaks of the "reunification" of Crimea and Russia, the Ukrainian president makes unconvincing promises about a united Ukraine, while American politicians are divided over the fear of immigration. Nadia internalizes notions of "union" all around her, but the one reunion she has been waiting six years for - with her beloved daughter - is being eternally delayed by the Department of Homeland Security. When Nadia finds out that her daughter has lost access to the medicine she needs to survive, she takes matters into her own hands.
Mother Country is Irina Reyn's most emotionally complex, urgent novel yet. It is a story of mothers and daughters and, above all else, resilience.
In Reyn's excellent exploration of the immigrant experience, a Ukrainian transplant to the United States grapples with the convoluted legacy of her home country. Once head bookkeeper at an important gas pipe factory in east Ukraine, Nadia Andreevna now nannies for a family in Brooklyn, navigating an unfamiliar land of artisanal mayonnaise and American parenting. Nadia had fled the politically destabilized country in 2008, aiming to send for her daughter, Larissa detained due to a bureaucratic loophole immediately. But six years have passed, and she spends her days writing pleading letters to senators and obsessively tracking news reports that document mounting violence in her home region. As Nadia resorts to increasingly extreme measures to reunite with her daughter including scouting American suitors for Larissa at nightclubs the narrative periodically flips back to Nadia's raw, affecting life as a single mother in Ukraine, fighting to carve out an existence for herself and her daughter amid a rapidly changing country. When Larissa's immigration suddenly looms closer, Nadia must reckon with how her memories of Larissa whom she has not seen for seven years abut against reality, and learn to forge her way in a culture that poses frequent affronts to her identity. In beautiful and emotionally perceptive prose, Reyn (The Imperial Wife) 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.