Saturday, January 9, 2010

Book Review of Story of a Disastrous Internet Romance by Svetlana Repina

I just read a GREAT book and thought I'd post my review here:

Story of a Disastrous Internet Romance unfolds as a powerful and mesmerizing tale. The heroine, Natalia, a young Russian woman who dares to dream of a better life, is one that will stay in the reader's memory for a long, long time. The American she weds, Carlos, is quite unforgettable also, but for polar opposite reasons. Ms. Repina's work should be required reading for anyone considering internet – and especially international – romance. The reader watches in horror as the predator within Carlos becomes visible.

I've read this book twice now, and each time, could not put it down, reading it straight through in one sitting, even after I knew what happened. The insights Ms. Repina shares into her own homeland are immensely thought-provoking, and seeing America through her eyes – from before and after Natalia arrives, provokes even more thought!

"My overblown concept of Americans was of a joking, resilient people who lived their lives to the full whether or not in happy circumstances. I saw my fellow Russian people so sorrowful, grumpy, and discontented both in real life and in movies. It is true that people in Russia truly do not use their smile a lot."

The author goes on though, to share some of what has created that Russian 'dourness,' with the decline of the male population starting in World War 2, continuing through the war with Afghanistan, "taking our men away along with it..." or if they returned, they often were missing arms, legs, eyes... and "many of the leftover men were drinkers." When thinking about the 'Russian mail-order bride' phenomena, it never dawned on me that there simply aren't many good men available for the young women.

Another insight stunned me: "As a child, I remembered being afraid of one thing in my grandmother's house... an icon of Mother Mary... After the Communist revolution in 1918, it was prohibited for people to believe in God." Ms. Repina talks about Perestroika and the deep poverty that Russia endured – and endures... the sacred New Year's Eve celebration, the one night of hope for a better tomorrow.

Readers come away with a whole new understanding of these 'mail-order brides', and a deeper compassion for women brave enough to leave their country and families for the chance of a better life.

Equally fascinating is Natalia's first impressions of America. Driving through New York City: "I saw massive gray buildings and frenetic traffic and I shivered. America was different, with darker buildings and freestyle architecture. I looked at the endless glass in a daze and a touch of disappointment. This was the fruit of a sophisticated and immensely prosperous society?" (Ms. Repina has a point there! Quite a few, actually.)

All in all, Story of a Disastrous Internet Romance has much to offer the reader. Ms. Repina made me laugh, cry, gasp, and deeply think about romance, scheming / using monsters, Russia and my own nation. I can't wait to read Volume 2!

Leahsandra Powell

Author of Woman... Speak!