Sunday, July 25, 2010

Petropolis by Anya Ulinich

Published: 2007
Pages: 324
Genre: Fiction
Sasha Goldberg is the ultimate outsider: she's a chubby, biracial Jewish girl from the Siberian town of Asbestos 2. Her father takes off for the Unites States, and leaves Sasha to navigate adolescence in a bleak apartment block with her overbearing mother. Following her heart gets her into trouble at home, so she flees Russia as a mail-order bride and lands in suburban Arizona. Then, Sasha abandons her fiance and embarks on a misadventure-filled journey across American in search of her father (from back of book).
As per usual, Petropolis was a totally random find for me in the library. I never heard about it, had no expectations, and was hoping for the best. Having finished it this morning, I can say one thing without a doubt: it was a unique book. But, for some reason, I didn't connect with it in the least!

The plot of the book wasn't terrible, but it doesn't stick out in my mind for any reason - good or bad. It's pretty much the standard finding-yourself-as-a-teen story, but with a slight twist; Sasha had a daughter at fifteen, immigrated from Russia a few years later, and had to fend for herself in America. Despite Sasha's endless adventures in this new country, not a lot happened during the 300+ pages. She moved from house to house, lover to lover, but when I think of the story in my mind, all that comes up is a bleak, blurry recollection of what actually occurred. It all merged together. Nothing stood out to me.

One thing that really impressed me was the large cast of solid, believable characters. While I didn't find Sasha to be the strongest in the novel, her mother, father, and other people we came across are characters I will likely never forget. They were interesting, scary, harsh, gentle, and so many other things. In this aspect, Petropolis delivered!

Ulinich's writing had its glorious moments, but also its downfalls. During some scenes, the words she used to describe certain things, and the comparisons she made, were truly great. But at other times I rushed through paragraphs, breezed through sections, and didn't get immersed at all. It did feel like a new reading experience, though, and I'm not quite sure why. Being a Russian immigrant herself, I'm sure Ulinich's experiences helped to create an authentic point of view. This came across in her writing at certain points, and it was really special.

Recommendation: Although I didn't personally connect with Petropolis, it's worth a read if you don't crave action on every page. The characters were great and the writing had its strong points, so it was a unique experience for sure!

12 comments:

Jan von Harz said...

Very honest review. I totally get that some books just don't have a wow factor, which can be disappointing. But one thing is for sure I need to be able to connect to characters so I am not sure based on your review that I would like this much more than you did.

Alison said...

Too bad it was just okay. The premise sounds fascinating.
I hate when I read a book and finish it only to barely remember what I'd just read. It's one of the greatest signs of mediocrity to me. :-(

Nymeth said...

Sorry to hear you couldn't connect with it, Emidy! But it does sound quite unique.

Aimee said...

Emidy, I think this might actually be a story I'd enjoy - I'm very character-centric!

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Great review! It always bums me out when I can't connect.

Shy said...

The general synopsis of the book really is intriguing but I don't think I'd like to read a book in which it is hard for me to connect with and in the end, remember anything from it. Sometimes when this happen, I'd wonder if the book isn't really working for me or is the book really not interesting enough. Not sure if there's any way to find out, eh?

Emidy said...

Jan - Hm, I'm not sure if you'd like it either. It was lacking a wow factor for sure!

Alison - Exactly! It doesn't stick out in my mind at all.

Nymeth - It was!

Aimee - That's great to hear! If you get the chance, try it out. You might end up liking it.

Juju - Thank you. Yes, that's never good in a book!

Shy - That's exactly how it was! The plot does sound cool, though, and that's what initially drew me to the book.

Lauren said...

Thanks for the honest review! It's always a bad sign when I can't connect to a character in a book no matter how good everything else is. As for the book, I'm not really sure if I'll pick it up sometime or not.

Darlyn said...

Wow! I'm going to love this book! I love adventure and this girl really has her gut!But when you the plot is somewhat terrible, oh-oh, that's bad..but certainly great to know a little bit of book's flaw!

Aths said...

This one does sound unique even with all the common elements. I like the title and the cover - kind of appealing and just the type of book one is likely to pick from the library on a whim.

miss cindy :) said...

This sounds interesting, too bad it wasn't too great though. I really like the cover though. Great, honest review :)

Emidy said...

Lauren - That's exactly how I feel! The rest of the book was great, though.

Darlyn - Aw, glad you're interested in reading it! The main character is adventurous for sure.

Aths - I like the cover too! That's part of what made me want to read the book.

miss cindy - Thank you! It was decent. The cover is cool, though!