"A nuanced portrait of an American family that is as heartening as it is realistic...A touching tale about life, death, family and forgiveness."– Kirkus Reviews
In Savko’s (Slip, 2010) emotional novel, an elderly mother and her middle-age children deal with the twists and turns of life in California in the late 1980s.
Anna, aging matriarch of the Sopko family, is in the twilight of her life and fending off her children’s suggestions that she move into an assisted living facility. The proud Czech woman, who immigrated to America when she was 17, is finding it difficult to accept the limitations and uncertainties that come with her age. Her husband, Michael, passed away years earlier after a painfully slow descent into dementia, and she can’t help but wonder what would have happened had she stayed in Czechoslovakia. Her son Peter is desperately trying to hold his own family together. Theresa, Peter’s wife, struggles with depression punctured by episodes of mania. She’s in denial, and he’s trying his best to cope with her emotional absence while taking care of their three children, daughter-in-law, and young grandson. The health of Anna’s daughter Anya has taken a turn for the worse, and her other daughter, Marya, is distant and in the closet. Anna’s great niece Danika, from Czechoslovakia, has moved to America to work as an au pair and fallen in love with Eddie, an immigrant from Mexico, but she’s taking a risky gamble with her visa. Between moments of lightness, laughter, and love—Savko’s novel isn’t all doom and gloom—everyone grapples with discontent, regret, and doubt. Savko presents a nuanced portrait of an American family that is as heartening as it is realistic. Family is no rock. It’s a garden, requiring constant care to survive the seasons. Yet these personal dramas aren’t written as idealized sap. Family members fall apart and put themselves back together again with imperfect results. Miracles are deliberately absent, and love is a many-shaded thing. But that’s the point. That’s life.
A touching tale about life, death, family, and forgiveness.
Two young parents struggle while raising an autistic child in this frank and candid look at the disorder.
Andrew suffers through severe anxiety brought on by the loneliness of being a stay-at-home dad; he cares for daughter Eileen and troubled son Nathan while wife Erica works nights and pursues her bachelor’s degree. The last straw comes when Nathan is diagnosed with autism and the shock of learning that their normal life is anything but what it appears quickly tears the young couple apart. Andrew and Erica are not always the most sympathetic protagonists, a fact that only makes them more believable and fully realized as characters. Both have deep, fleshed-out back stories that are introduced organically throughout the plot, giving the reader a welcome insight into the decisions they make and the sometimes harsh manner in which they treat each other. Though our time spent with them as a cohesive, happily married couple is short and already mired in hardship, it is genuinely heartbreaking to watch their marriage fall apart. Their reaction to their son’s diagnosis and the way in which they cope with his disorder feels realistic. Nathan isn’t presented as the traditional stereotype of a child with autism; Savko’s portrayal of him is sweetly nuanced, in a way that those who have experienced the trials of the disorder firsthand will appreciate. And the book’s ironic contrast of two people who are terrible at communicating trying to socialize an autistic child makes for a compelling, emotional tale. Dialogue between characters is at times rigid and perfunctory, surprising in what is an otherwise highly readable novel. The included “Reader’s Guide” feels unnecessary—the questions raised are unnecessary as the themes they draw attention to are well-represented within the text.
Savako’s debut is an engaging read with an honest approach to difficult subject matter.