Moonlight in Odessa

Moonlight in Odessa

by Janet Skeslien Charles

Arlene Almas: Here's a story we don't hear much about: Daria, a young woman in present-day Odessa, Ukraine, speaks excellent English and has a good job with the local office of an international shipping firm based in Israel. Her talent for getting customs officials to cooperate with the shipping company makes her an indispensable employee, although her boss, David, doesn't always realize it. This job allows her to support herself and her grandmother (Boba), who raised her; although they live in a cramped apartment far from the city center, which means a long commute to work by overcrowded bus, they enjoy luxuries like food from the shipping company they would never get otherwise. Daria takes a second job with Soviet Unions, an online modern version of the mail-order bride business, which matches American men with Ukrainian women for the purpose of marriage (and for getting the women to America, since the chances for a good life in Ukraine are very slim due to the terrible economy). She turns out to be a whiz at this business and, again, indispensible to her boss, Valentina - she translates messages between the men and women, and when the Americans come to Odessa to attend "socials" and meet the women they have been corresponding with, she brings couples together who she feels will be a good match for each other. Now Daria and her Boba are able to buy a decent apartment in the city center. Suddenly it's Daria's turn for a completely new life: fate offers the chance of joining a Soviet Unions client in America. It sounds like a dream come true, but not all dreams do, or at least not the way we expect them to. Daria's ironic take on life in Odessa and her clear-eyed observations of a very different life in America are wonderfully expressed, and she is a fully realized character whom I really enjoyed getting to know. I loved this book!
Rating: *****

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