In Trogonoski’s (The English Woman’s Memoir, 2010, etc.) romantic adventure, a young Russian girl journeys across the Bering Strait and through the wilderness, suffering many hardships to find the man she loves.
Pauline, a student in early-1990s Moscow, comes home one afternoon to find her entire family murdered. She flees the city with brash Irish-American Martin, who plans to ride his motorcycle across Siberia and cross the dangerous Bering Strait into Alaska. Martin’s outspoken vivacity and blunt sexuality contrast sharply with Pauline’s girlish shyness and sensitivity, but despite their differences in personality and values, the two fall madly in love. However, after a passionate night on the coast of the Bering Strait, Martin abandons her to fly back to America alone. Pauline, pregnant with Martin’s child and completely alone in the world, sets out to find him and force him to tell her why he abandoned her. Her journey takes her to a variety of locales, including a brothel in Japan, the wild Russian island of Sakhalin and North American native communities, among others. Pauline is constantly threatened by men who desire her, yet she manages to escape one scrape after another, inching her way closer and closer to Martin’s Massachusetts home. Trogonoski has an incredible eye for detail and makes a worthy tour guide for the remote parts of the world in which Pauline finds herself. Readers are likely to enjoy the author’s habit of fully describing landscapes, native peoples and cultures. However, Pauline’s constant sobbing, begging and self-pitying may become grating over the book’s considerable length. Her obsessive determination to find Martin or die trying may remind some readers of Twilight’s Bella Swan at her most lovesick.
A rich, descriptive novel that’s at its best when it focuses on the world around its heroine.