Hotel Moscow

  • Review
May 18, 2015

It is 1993, and Amer­i­can busi­ness­woman Brooke Field­ing is at a cross­roads in her career when she accepts an invi­ta­tion to trav­el to Rus­sia. Her mis­sion is to teach entre­pre­neur­ial skills to Russ­ian busi­ness­women as they adjust to their new post-Com­mu­nist soci­ety. But when Brooke arrives in Rus­sia — the for­mer home­land of her moth­er, a Jew­ish Holo­caust sur­vivor — she gets much more than she bar­gained for.

Brooke is in many ways naive: She was an Amer­i­can, a child of the land of free­dom. While the Holo­caust had been fed into her with every spoon­ful of rich food she was forced to swal­low, for­ev­er owing to her par­ents’ years of star­va­tion, her psy­che was detached from her par­ents’ haunt­ed past.” While Brooke had always tried to sep­a­rate from her par­ents’ his­to­ry, she now real­izes the past is not far behind her.

In Rus­sia, Brooke finds that decades of Com­mu­nist rule have been replaced by mob rule. It is a vicious, vio­lent cul­ture and women are espe­cial­ly vul­ner­a­ble. Brooke is com­plete­ly unpre­pared; she wants to flee Rus­sia, to leave the women she came to help. But thoughts of the right­eous fig­ures and civil­ians dur­ing the Holo­caust keep her from doing so, and Brooke must final­ly accept that her par­ents’ pain is an unde­ni­able part of her. Brooke also finds that amidst all the cor­rup­tion and vio­lence, some­how the roots of anti-Semi­tism still hold strong, even among those she is risk­ing her life to help. As her mis­sion in Rus­sia becomes more and more dan­ger­ous, Brooke is forced to reck­on with secrets from her own past that she believed she had put to rest long ago.

Talia Carn­er brings the plight of the Russ­ian women to life with vis­cer­al, dis­turb­ing detail, a por­trait of suf­fer­ing that is unflinch­ing and unfor­get­table. Hotel Moscow cap­tures a spe­cif­ic moment in his­to­ry, but is time­less in its exam­i­na­tion of what hap­pens when free­dom” is bestowed upon a coun­try that is unpre­pared for it. With her hero­ine, Brooke, Carn­er explores the emo­tion­al lega­cy of the Holo­caust, and both sto­ries inter­twine to show that the past can be nei­ther denied nor for­got­ten. It is an ambi­tious sto­ry that tack­les polit­i­cal, emo­tion­al, and soci­o­log­i­cal issues — some more deft­ly than oth­ers. As a whole, Brooke’s jour­ney toward accept­ing her cul­tur­al lega­cy and her own per­son­al mis­takes is a deeply sat­is­fy­ing read.

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