Summary via Goodreads.com:
The heroine of this enigmatic, razor-sharp, and thoroughly contemporary novel is seventeen- year-old Sacha Naimann, born in Moscow. Sacha lives in Berlin now with her two younger siblings and, until recently, her mother. She is precocious, independent, skeptical and, since her stepfather murdered her mother several months ago, an orphan. Unlike most of her companions, she doesn’t dream of getting out the tough housing project where they live. Her dreams are different: she wants to write a novel about her mother; and she wants to end the life of Vadim, the man who murdered her.
What strikes the reader most in this exceptional novel is Sacha’s voice: candid, self-confident, mature and childlike at the same time: a voice so like the voices of many of her generation with its characteristic mix of worldliness and innocence, skepticism and enthusiasm. This is Sacha’s story and it is as touching as any in recent literature.
I found this a very interesting book, in spite of not being able to really connect with the protagonist.
I found Sacha fascinating, but I never quite felt I understood her, either intellectually or emotionally. It isn’t that I found her unconvincing. I always believed she was acting in character. She was just… foreign to me.
When I thought about it, I realized her life was so different than mine that I was having trouble bridging the gap.
I was fascinated by the look at a culture inside a culture, a very poor Russian immigrant community in Germany. Sacha was a misfit because of her personality, and possibly would have been one wherever she was. She didn’t fit into the wider community because she was part of the poor Russian tenements, but she has too many goals for her life to fit in with the discouraged teens in her area.
She’s taken on responsibility for her siblings, a responsibility that leads her to decide she much protect them from their father when he is finally released from jail.
At the same time, she’s feeling the need to escape her life, and makes the first steps towards doing this. Along the way, she discovers a whole different world than her own, takes some time to explore her sexuality, and after all this makes some decisions that didn’t make sense to me.
After discussing Broken Glass Park with my book club (see my notes below), I was curious as to how this book would be perceived by someone closer to Sacha, so I handed my copy over to a young woman who had several things in common with the character: She’s not far from Sacha’s age, she’s very smart, and her family emigrated from Russia when she was younger. Beyond that, their lives are quite different.
As I suspected, she loved the book (right up until the ending).
Book Club Notes
We spent time talking about whether our distance from the book was due to it being a translation. Certainly, the words had an unusual feel to them, but the entire book did as well. It’s hard to know where that feeling came in.
We did have a good discussion on the choices that Sacha made, on the society she lived in, on what pieces were universal.
I received this book for review via Regal Literary. I suggested my book club discuss it, and once the group selected it, I waited for our discussion before reviewing it.