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Natalya, God's Messenger

Natalya, God's Messenger

by Magda Bogin

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This absorbing first novel by the translator of Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits shares a sensibility with Allende's work, especially in its smooth intermingling of realism and the supernatural. Rita, daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants to America, is a riveter and political leftist whose job is threatened by the end of WW II. On a whim, she answers an ad for a fortuneteller, finding that a weekend's study of a palmistry book and a turban can transform her into Natalya, a Manhattan palmreader who bills herself as ``God's Messenger.'' But Rita's real change begins when, to her surprise, she realizes that she really can read the past and future in palms. She soon attracts crowds of followers and becomes convinced that she can uncover a great truth about peace in this century; though enthusiastically embraced by some, her mission offends her Marxist boyfriend, who leaves her. As years, then decades, pass, Rita and Natalya seem to become one person, whose conviction that she may have to save the country from itself grows ever stronger. Like Allende, Bogin has both a propensity for laying out the shape of events to come--which doesn't affect the story's suspense--and a concern with several generations of a family, but she establishes a sense of place and a voice that are entirely her own. Although the palmreader's revelations become predictable and the narrative sometimes sprawls, the large, multiethnic cast of characters is vivid, and an ingenious climax (with a surprising twist to a love affair) lends further spice to this more than promising debut. (Aug.)
Library Journal
This story is about Rita, a World War II riveter who turns to palm reading after she is displaced from her job. When Rita buys the palmistry business of "Natalya, God's Messenger," she is shocked to find that she has inherited clairvoyance along with the lease. Her family accepts the fact that Rita has been "called," but her lover Leo cannot and leaves for Spain. Rita predicts births, marriages, and deaths along with cataclysmic world events-e.g., the bombing of Hiroshima, the Korean War, the Kennedy assassination. She is assaulted with images from every palm except those of blood relatives. In a futile race to save John Kennedy, she is reunited with Leo and finally reads his future. Fun and imaginative, this first novel is recommended for general collections.-Joanna M. Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Coll. of Continuing Education Lib., Providence
Theresa Ducato
The time is the end of World War II; the place is Manhattan. An unemployed riveter, Rita, buys a palm-reading business on the Lower East Side, where colorful and eccentric characters line up to have her read their palms. But all along, hadn't Rita been able to see future happenings? Hadn't she seen a vision of Hiroshima? Then almost 20 years later, with a number of tangled romances behind her, Rita foresees JFK's assassination. She and her Communist friend, Leo, inform the authorities but are ignored. Frustrated, Rita develops her own skewered theories about the assassination and sees conspiracies everywhere. This is a wonderful novel, humorous and original, satirical and outrageous. Rita, who has become too politically incorrect for Leo, has no problem seeing the future for all who care to know, but she's blind to the ways of her own heart.

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Macmillan Publishing Company, Incorporated
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