Author and poet Kasischke (If a Stranger Approaches You, 2013, etc.) chronicles the ramblings of a woman snowed in with her adopted daughter on Christmas Day.
Holly and her husband, Eric, adopted beautiful Tatiana from a cold, impersonal Russian orphanage when she was a toddler. The little girl with the blue-tinged skin, glossy black hair, and huge, dark eyes adjusted quickly to the love and attention showered upon her by her new family, but when they all oversleep on Christmas morning, the day grows exceptionally strange. Eric rushes out in a blizzard to fetch his elderly parents from the airport, while Holly and Tatty—as they call their daughter—try to put dinner on the table for their guests, which include Eric’s brothers and their wives and some family friends. But something is different about this day: Holly awakens to the idea that something followed them home from Russia, and she keeps trying to hold on to that idea in order to write it down. And Tatty, despite having overslept, keeps taking long naps. She also makes strange appearances in which both her clothes and personality change. Then there’s Holly’s phone, which rings often but conceals the identity of the caller and transmits odd messages. Holly, the sole narrator of the story, is a poet with writer’s block, but in Kasischke’s hands, she becomes a buzzing mosquito, obsessing over every decision, no matter how small and inconsequential. The story’s most fascinating moments occur when the author decamps to Siberia in the days before and during Tatty’s adoption. The rich and heartbreaking details surrounding the orphanage and the adoption process provide interesting insight into both Holly and Tatty. But the author’s favored technique of taking random thoughts and dwelling on them for pages on end makes for some thin and often frustrating prose.
A prolonged exercise in navel-gazing, with a powerful ending that may be redemptive in the eyes of readers who stick around.