An âmigrâ's account of his return to post-Communist Romania exudes his own and his native land's irrepressible...


THE RETURN: A Family Revisits Their Eastern European Roots

An âmigrâ's account of his return to post-Communist Romania exudes his own and his native land's irrepressible personality. Despite achieving personal and professional success in America after defecting from Romania, novelist and screenwriter Popescu (Amazon Beaming, 1991) continued to be plagued by his past, his defection, and a sense of having betrayed his Romanian readers. More private ghosts include his late twin brother, stricken by polio as a teenager; his writer-father, who walked out on the family after the brother's death; and a selfish mother who dictated the terms of her remaining son's life. With Ceausescu's downfall, Popescu made the fraught decision to travel to Romania as a journalist. The trip proved to be an emotional roller coaster, plunging both Popescu and his wife, Iris, into moments of dread, joy, despair, and reconciliation. From its opening line, ""Listen to me. Listen to me,"" the reader is plunged into Popescu's urgent and energetic confessional style. Seemingly little has been omitted from his story, which at times meanders off track to touch on: the saga of the Popescu family; his marriage to Iris, a child of Holocaust survivors; Romanian history; the intricacies of post-Ceauescu politics; his wife's return to her parents' native Czechoslovakia; and finally, a self-indulgent glimpse of the machinations of Hollywood movie executives. The Return is inseparable from Popescu's unique literary voice and from his overpowering but compelling personality. But his wife also is a central figure. A rare subject of joy and hope in a book otherwise laden with family tensions and disappointments, Iris supplies an uplifting counterargument to The Return's pessimistic thesis: that ""patriotism . . . comes from family, and if it's tortured and incomplete, it means that the family was tortured and incomplete."" A moving, albeit verbose, very East European testimony about roots, the writer's life, and personal discovery.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997


Page Count: 400

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1997

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