Blurb: My mama became a catfish when I was two, on the day I stopped talking."
Neglected since birth by her mother, Irina Myshko hasn’t spoken a word for most of her short Soviet life. Outcast as a mute idiot and abused by her mother's boyfriends, she escapes into an alternate reality where true natures show and people are revealed as the beasts they are. Pregnant, homeless, and penniless, Irina has to make a choice — learn to live in this splintered world or descend into madness.
As a voracious reader, I have come across many books in life. Some, I read just for a good time and then forgot about. Some, I read and remember for quite some time- books with memorable characters in touching stories which enriched me as a person. And then there are books like IRKADURA, which is not only memorable but also heart-wrenchingly honest in its prediction of the brutality that we humans inflict on each other, and roused me from my long somnolence about the insidious evil that prevails in some of our minds and hearts.
Irina Myshko is a beleaguered teenager in Soviet Russia, grappling with an abusive, negligent, alcoholic mother and a drunkard rapist of a step-father. Constantly sexually abused by her mother's boyfriend and numerous lovers, Irina decides to run away from home one fine morning. Pregnant, alone and helpless in a big, merciless city and at the mercy of a hypocritical, cold and apathetically cruel society, Irina copes with her predicament by resorting to magical realism- she turns all the humans into animals in her head, decreeing each person's animal name by their respective natures and actions. While her mom is a catfish, her rapist stepfather is a boar.
As Irina tries to grapple with the demons in her head, undergoes more torture on the streets and also encounters new people and adventures, she has to walk a thin line between keeping her mind and losing it completely...to carry her story to a shocking, highly emotional conclusion.
IRKADURA is many things all at once. It is the heart-wrenching, gritty story of a young, dumb-mute, physically, sexually, verbally and mentally tormented teenage girl who braves all odds to survive and conquer her horrifyingly brutal past. It is a between-the-lines commentary of the social mores prevalent in Soviet society at that time- the hypocrisy, the misogyny, the harsh judgment on people who happened to be different, the coldness towards people in dire need of help, the apathy, the discrimination. The prevailing attitudes towards women. It is a love story. It is a portrayal of the bitter reality of the human psyche. It is a possible fairy-tale gone horribly wrong. It is a book that will give you a lesson in facing your demons and healing from your hurts- without proselytizing.
Ksenia has effortlessly combined magical realism with brilliant expositions of the world around Irina along with excellent descriptions of Irina's thoughts, conflicts and struggles- both inner and outer. The story manages to touch the reader's heart on every level because it is sincere, honest and does not mince words or use flowery language at any point. The author has accomplished the rare feat of pouring her heart out and doing it so beautifully and mind-blowingly, making the reader join Irina in her adventures, experience her joy, her pain, her dilemmas and cry with her.
Ksenia is an excellent author in her own right, but I will still say that she can write magic realism like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, beautiful exposition like Markus Zusak and descriptions of scenes from real life like Dostoevsky, because I consider Ksenia's writing to be of that level.
The ending WILL make you cry.
DON'T read this book if you are weak of heart or of mind or like to read stories with happy endings and palaces and lovey-dovey romances.
DO READ this book if you like gritty stories of pain, violence and struggle with strong, tough women protagonists, heavy on emotions and having memorable supporting characters like Sim and Pavlik.
On an end note, I would like to state that I have read other books by Ksenia like Rosehead and the Siren Suicides trilogy- she is an AWESOME author, can write a lot more than just Fantasy- her genre of choice- and her arc of growth as an author has been as interesting as those of the intriguing characters in her intriguing books.
YES, I am very happy with Brand Ksenia :D. You will be too, once you sample her books.
You can find all the links for buying Irkadura here: http://www.kseniaanske.com/books/irkadura
You can find Ksenia's other books here: http://www.kseniaanske.com/books/rosehead; http://www.kseniaanske.com/books/siren-suicides.
Finally, you can connect with Ksenia at her blog: http://www.kseniaanske.com/blog/