Sascha, the emotionally scarred 17-year-old protagonist of this gritty novel, has two dreams in life: to write a book about her mother and to kill the man who killed her mother and her boyfriend in a blood-drenched murder (in front of her children).
The author, too, is a Russian immigrant living in Germany, and wrote this novel under a pseudonym. Sascha is scary smart and passionately loves her younger brother and sister, but she sets off on a self-destructive path to get to a place where she can feel something.
Bronsky packs in tons of detail and characters, almost to excess. I don't like it when I can't keep track of all of the characters or I don't know much about them.
The ones she spends more time on (Anton and Alissa, Maria, Volker, Felix) are more colorfully drawn and it's easier to understand their actions and thoughts.
I don't understand many of the choices Sascha makes--such as seducing a young neonazi or being obsessed with a journalist who showed kindness to her--but Bronsky does an admirable job of writing in the voice of a teenager who has seen far too much in her life. She comes to appreciate their new guardian Maria, although she initially treated her with scorn.
It was clear that Bronsky does not yet have children herself, as she shows some naivete in writing about young children. Alissa is meant to be only 3 years old, yet she is in kindergarten and can write words in Cyrillic? She's also exceedingly articulate for her age.
It's an impressive first novel and it feels very European urban in nature. The end of the book leaves the reader wondering if Sascha will ever recover from her tragedy and be able to develop healthy, long-lasting relationships.