Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Book Review: "The Sunlit Night" by Rebecca Dinerstein

Rebecca Dinerstein's The Sunlit Night is a quirky, charming, and moving book about the power love—both familial and romantic—has on our lives, even at times of great uncertainty.

Upon graduating from college, Frances' life is completely turned upside down. Her relationship with her boyfriend has ended while her sister has just gotten engaged to a guy of whom their parents don't approve, and to top it off, much to her utter surprise, her parents are getting divorced. With no one or nowhere to turn, she flees to a tiny Norwegian archipelago nearly at the top of the world, to pursue an apprenticeship with an artist.

Almost 18 years old, Yasha Gregoriov emigrated to the U.S. from Russia with his father when he was very young. Working in his father's bakery every day, the two spend years waiting for his mother to join them as she promised. But she never did. And when Yasha's father becomes ill at the same time his mother mysteriously reappears, Yasha is unsure what to do—reveal the truth to his father and risk his dying, or let his father continue living under the charade that one day his wife might return? When his father dies, Yasha is determined to fulfill a promise he made: to bury his father at "the top of the world."

"Love and geography had become synonyms, both meaning: move across a great space."

Yasha and Frances find each other in the midst of great emotional turmoil. The archipelago of Lofoten, where they both have come, seems isolated but is a bit of a tourist mecca, and it is populated by some tremendously colorful characters. Will their growing feelings for one another provide them the security they need at tumultuous times in their lives, or will other obligations win out?

I thought this was an enjoyable book that was a little bit eccentric at times, but it had a great deal of heart. The narrative structure was a little confusing toward the end, as the book had originally shifted between Yasha and Frances per section, but then suddenly shifted per paragraph. And at times I felt that Dinerstein spent more time on those around them than on Yasha and Frances. But these are tremendously interesting characters that grab hold of you, and you find yourself rooting for them to soldier on.

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