October 21, 2014
Russian Tattoo by Elena Gorokhova
I read "A Mountain of Crumbs" and really enjoyed it. So I was interested in seeing where the rest of Gorokhova's life went after she came to the United States on the arm of her new (stranger) husband. Having studied English for most of the time she was in Russia, it is still quite the transition to a new culture.
In her previous memoir, Elena meets a young American man who says he will marry her and have an "open" relationship in order to bring her to the United States. She isn't sure what she's signing up for, but quickly realizes that he is not the man she had thought he might be and that she is lonely and unsure of how to act in this new country. Eventually they fall apart and she is able to meet another man who will become her husband and the father of her child. As she transitions into a way of life here, her mother still worries about her though and eventually she has worries of her own as a mother that she must overcome in order to be more at peace with her life.
Elena was very much a worrier in this book. She worried about everything. And I can't say that I blame her. She had a lot going on and felt very out of place and didn't have the support she apparently needed when she first moved. Her first husband seemed distant and cold, but we are just getting her side of the story. I do wonder if she ever reimbursed him the money he spent in bringing her to the United States, but I suppose at this point it doesn't matter. Her mother was not as strongly written in this book either. She was a sideline, a strife that was dealt with sometimes, and an endearing mother in others that the author recalled fondly. The same goes for her sister who is briefly mentioned. Her husband gets a lot of detail though (the 2nd one) and I felt that he really was a good person.
I wasn't as engrossed in this one as I was the first. It was somehow both lengthy and too short all at once. The parts I wanted more detail on (transition to life in America, customs, etc.) there just didn't seem to be enough of, and those I didn't really care about (family members Dr. appointments) there was quite a bit of. I thought her interactions with her family were interesting, but didn't need to know every kind of Dr. her mother had appointments at. I was also surprised at how little time was spent on her daughter as I expected that to be a larger part of the book. Really, the best detail though was her description of encountering a hamburger for the first time. It made an impact and showed just how different life in the Soviet Union is from here.
I can't say that it was an exceptionally strong 2nd memoir, but it certainly was expressive writing. It does what a memoir should; bring you the life of the writer.