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When Nazi forces occupy the beautiful coastal city of Yalta, Crimea, everything changes. Eighteen-year-old Filip has few options; he is a prime candidate for forced labor in Germany. His hurried marriage to his childhood friend Galina might grant him reprieve, but the rules keep shifting. Galina’s parents, branded as traitors for innocently doing business with the enemy, decide to volunteer in hopes of better placement. The work turns out to be horrific, but at least the family stays together. By winter 1945, Allied air raids destroy strategic sites; Dresden, a city of no military consequence, seems safe. The world knows Dresden’s fate. Roads is the story of one family lucky enough to escape with their lives as the city burns behind them. But as the war ends, they are separated and their trials continue. Looking for safety in an alien land, they move toward one another with the help of refugee networks and pure chance. Along the way, they find new ways to live in a changed world—new meanings for fidelity, grief, and love.
|Publisher:||Chicago Review Press, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Marina Antropow Cramer is a freelance writer born in postwar Germany into a family of Russian refugees. Her work has appeared in Blackbird, Istanbul Literary Review, and Wilderness House Literary Review. Roads is her first novel. She lives in Slate Hill, New York.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
There are multiple reasons for the felicitous reading experience that Cramer provides, to wit (1) A well-judged balance between descriptive passages and dialog; (2) Her disarmingly easy way with narrative, offering up keenly observed details which develop and sustain the ambience permeating the work, while also helping to ensure a consistent pace by providing a gentle nudge as needed to aid plot advancement; (3) The reassuringly linear plot obviating the wasteful expense of gray matter to comprehend some unnecessary, complex chronology; (4) Cramer’s narrative style tends to the intrusive. I welcome the resultant clarity afforded by authorial explanation of an event that is about to unfold or an exchange that has just transpired (often conveyed via italicized text), as unresolved or protracted ambiguity can be draining on mental bandwidth. In terms of the characters, certain reviewers have commented about the lack of a strong, male personage, with some going so far as to identify this as a structural deficiency of the novel. I totally reject this analysis. While Cramer undoubtedly displays an impressive adeptness in the way she presents us with the rounded characters of Galina and Ksenia, to look for a dominant male is, to my mind, to miss the point. The protagonists are trapped between Stalin’s and Hitler’s respective manifestations of tyranny. Each is horrifically bleak and, by 1945, no Allied government has the economic might or, frankly, the appetite to provide overnight solutions for the mass of displaced persons. There is a tremendous - yet wholly realistic - focus on the quotidian quest for food. Survival is dependent on a combination of ingenuity, bravery, strength, both physical and mental, and tenacity, along with occasional picaresque relief thrown in for good measure. Neither Filip nor Maksim is equipped to prevail in this most Darwinian of environments. That being said, a more pertinent question, perhaps, is whether the novel suffers for the lack of a more romantically drawn male character. Again, I would emphatically refute this assertion. Roads is not some Hollywood-inspired wartime tragedy, where two lovers are ripped from each other by some senseless act of brutality. No, there is no Hollywood glamor here; on the contrary, the work is firmly anchored in the grim reality of WW2 and the daily struggle to stay alive. There is no time for romantic love. Indeed, Galina’s and Filip’s decision to marry was motivated by the naïve hope that it would enable the latter to remain in Yalta. In the final chapter, we learn of her realization that her love for Filip is not as deep or as powerful as that which her parents share. They are not true soulmates and will never become so. Accordingly, it makes sense that Cramer’s narrative provides frequent reminders of Filip’s egocentric, self-indulgent, superior personality. No review of Roads would be complete without discussion of the work’s ending. I am somewhat bemused by the lukewarm reception it has received. As I have noted, Roads is not a ‘happily ever after’ love story, nor is it a fully blown tragedy. It is about the domestic battle for survival of a family during the war years and their efforts to reunite in the immediate aftermath. Life offers no guarantees and the future remains uncertain. However, the next phase of Galina’s and Filip’s life in Belgium, the search for Filip’s parents, Katya’s childhood, these are matters for another day, a sequel, maybe:-)
I won this in a GOODREADS giveaway -- Roads (Paperback) by Marina Antropow Cramer -- I rarely give 5 stars on GOODREADS but... This was very intense and left me haunted. A must read!