Alina Bronsky is one of my favorite contemporary writers; she's had four books translated into English and I've enjoyed them all, starting with the searing Broken Glass Park and continuing through her bittersweet and sad latest, Baba Dunja's Last Love. Set in modern day Eastern Europe in an area damaged by the Chernobyl disaster, she's part of a community of people who try to eke out a life despite the radiation and ongoing danger. Into this world come a father and daughter; Baba Dunja takes a liking to the little girl, for whom she fears, but soon something happens to the father and it's the fallout from that which determines the fate of the town and Baba Dunja herself.
Baba Dunja meanwhile is mother to two children who've left to make lives for themselves elsewhere; her daughter is in Germany and her son in America. She's fairly close to her daughter, who sends packages of food and other necessities. But it's news of her granddaughter Laura that keeps Baba Dunja afloat, and lately there hasn't been much of that. Baba Dunja does have a single letter from Laura, which she is unable to read and the search for a translator is always on her mind.
Baba Dunja's Last Love is a short book that will leave a deep mark on your heart. She's not really a crotchety-loner-with-a-heart-of-gold like Ove or Major Pettigrew; she's pretty golden right on the surface, suffused with love for her family and community even as they hurt her or drive her a little bit crazy. And she sticks up for them when it counts.
This is probably my favorite book of Bronsky's since Broken Glass Park and I urge readers to check out this moving and ultimately very sweet story about family and learning when to step up and when to step aside. I love this book a little more every time I think about it.
FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.