“There Once Lived a Mother Who Loved Her Children, Until They Moved Back In: Three Novellas About Family” by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

“There Once Lived a Mother Who Loved Her Children, Until They Moved Back In: Three Novellas About Family” by Ludmilla PetrushevskayaThere Once Lived a Mother Who Loved Her Children, Until They Moved Back In: Three Novellas About Family by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
Published: 2014 by Penguin Books
Genres: Fiction (General)
Pages: 208
Source: the publisher
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There Once Lived a Mother Who Loved Her Children, Until They Moved Back In is a new collection of novellas from Russian author Ludmilla Petrushevskaya.  Petrushevskaya’s prose is stark and honest, revealing characters’ thoughts and motivations, especially those not fit for polite society.  She writes about messy relationships and broken homes, breaking the illusion of the model Soviet society and presenting the stories that lie beneath the surface.  She’s not writing a generalization of Russian life, she’s presenting the stories of families that are fucked up and desperate and just can’t hang on any longer, and that type of situation can be found in any country and any culture because people are human.

I’ve read Petrushevskaya’s work before, and when I heard that she was releasing a new book, I was very excited to read it.  This collection of novellas does not disappoint.

The Time is Night

Anna is an aging grandmother who has made many sacrifices for her family.  Her daughter is wild and promiscuous, and now Anna must raise her grandson without any financial support from her daughter.  Anna’s son is a petty criminal freshly out of prison, and her own aging mother’s health concerns are increasingly becoming a burden.  Anna loves her family, but she also can’t stand any of them, and the tensions between them escalate as a side effect of too many people living in a small apartment.  Anna makes everyone around her miserable with her mean-spirited nagging, and as the story progresses, readers realize that she is destroying every meaningful relationship that she has in her life.  On one hand, we empathize with Anna’s suffering, but on the other hand, she really is rather despicable and deserves her fate.

Chocolates with Liqueur

A mentally ill man tries to kill his wife and children because he’s having an affair and wants to give their apartment to his mistress.  Leila has flashbacks to the beginning of her relationship with Nikita, which began with him stalking and raping her after she got off her shift at the hospital one night.  Every part of their relationship was wrong from the very beginning, and now Leila is struggling to hold on and to save her children from the monster that her husband has become.  Profoundly disturbing.

Among Friends

A woman in the earlier stages of dementia reminisces about the group of friends she has who have gotten together to drink on the weekends for many years.  She’s worried about what is going to happen to her son when she dies, and so she comes up with a plan to get her friends to take her son under their wing.  This story was hands-down the best one in the book, and the ending made me tear up I little.

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