Bottled Goods

Harper Perennial. Jul. 2020. 192p. ISBN 9780062979520. pap. $15.99.
DEBUT During Ceausescu’s regime in Romania, young Alina dares to dream. She wants a happy life with her husband, Liviu, and hopes to publish a math exercise book she has written while teaching eight-year-olds. All of her dreams are thwarted after her brother-in-law Mihai defects to the West. Liviu is forced to leave his chosen career as a history teacher and now works at a demeaning job far from home. His treatment of Alina is altered by his work and heavy drinking on the train commute home every evening. Soon Alina starts rethinking her life, but when her contentious mother discovers Alina’s wish to flee Romania she reports her to the Secret Service. Now Alina has a tough decision to make, and she takes care of her situation in an inventive way. One can easily imagine the ruthlessness of Communist-era reality as Alina’s aspirations change.
VERDICT Drawing on Romanian folklore and a few touches of magic realism, this novella-in-flash-fiction by the Romanian-born van Llewyn is a wonder. Long-listed for the Women’s Prize for Fiction.

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