Mother Winter

S. & S. Feb. 2019. 272p. ISBN 9781501193088. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781501193101. MEMOIR
Shalmiyev's first book carries readers to an apartment in Russia, where a little girl lives with an alcoholic mother, to the streets of Italy where a 12-year-old refugee washes car windows, to a peep show in Washington State where a college student works to pay bills, and Portland, OR, where a loving wife writes and cares for her children. During all stages and places of her life, Shalmiyev longs to reunite with her mother, even though a Russian court deemed her mother unfit. At times, the author fears she's becoming like her mother. At other times, she embraces the woman's party girl persona. Indeed, this narrative is of how her mother's alcoholism robbed Shalmiyev of her childhood and impacted her adulthood.
VERDICT Despite flashes of brilliance, the writing is uneven with many asides and inordinate word choices. The book is best in its open, raw, reflective, and intimate moments. Readers willing to tackle serious issues of gender roles, displacement, parental neglect, and sexual assault will be ecstatic to discover a writer who unabashedly shares her story.

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