Moonlight in Odessa – Cultural Surprises and a Giveaway

29 10 2010

Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of meeting Janet Skeslien Charles, a native of Montana who now makes her home in Paris, and who has written an engaging first novel called Moonlight in Odessa.

Moonlight in Odessa

Faced with graduating college with a minor in Russian and lacking any practical experience with the language, Janet got a fellowship to move to Odessa, in Ukraine,  for two years to teach English.  I think it was a daring thing to do, but then, I can barely read Russian.  While there she learned a lot about Odessan culture, and gained an appreciation for the hearty, comforting food.  Later, her experiences there inspired her to write this novel, with a bright, determined, young Odessan woman named Daria as its heroine.

When the story opens, Daria is working as a secretary for a shipping company.  She has a tense relationship with her boss, who drops not-so-subtle hints that sexual favors are part of the job.  After a particularly awkward encounter, Daria begins to worry about her job security and begins moonlighting at a “dating” service designed to fix up Ukranian women with American or European men.  In the course of translating letters and emails for the mail-order brides, she starts corresponding with a couple of the men herself.  One ends up proposing, offering her a new life in America, the Land of Opportunity, which leads to a series of difficult decisions for Daria.  What is most important?  Family?  Love?  Security?  Happiness?

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