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Book Review: Stalina by Emily Rubin

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Stalina by Emily Rubin is the fictional story of a Russian immigrant to the United States. The story takes place after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Stalina Folskaya flees St. Petersburg, searching for a better life in the United States. Stalina leaves behind her elderly, alzhimeric, mother and her past. As a trained chemist, Stalina is quickly disillusioned about her bright future prospects and becomes a maid at a short-stay motel. Stalina convinces her boss to let her design some of the fantasy rooms and business skyrockets.

Stalina is a well written novel, but I had varied thoughts about it. While the story was certainly interesting, the book had very little in the way of plot and no ending.

The characters were certainly well developed. Stalina is very engaging, her circle of friends was interesting and her circle of acquaintances was also intriguing. Ms. Rubin certainly knows how to build a scene and explore relationships. The father/daughter relationship which Stalina relishes thought the novel is heartwarming and sad. Stalina’s father, a poet, was taken by the Russian government never to be seen again.

As someone who had to learn English as a second language, the notion that Stalina spoke fluent, or even passable English because her father read to her in that language was a bit of a stretch. There are plenty of people who hear English everyday (via songs, radio, TV, movies, etc.) yet cannot converse. I can watch Telemundo all day long yet still not be able to hold my own in Spanish. Learning a language takes dedication, time and practice.

As appealing as the character of Stalina was and as interesting as her point of view is I still felt as if the book was a collection of short stories all revolving around a central character.

Certainly not a bad thing.

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