Yakimov, herself a Bulgarian emigré to Canada and onetime college professor, writes in a distinctive detached and matter-of-fact voice (one chapter heading is “And Here Comes a Guy Called Ludmil”; another introduces “The Melancholy Figure Standing on a Bridge, the Crazy Lady, and the Strange Attraction Felt by Men to Girls with Blond Hair”). The dispassionate narration, which reads a bit like listening to Greta Garbo as Ninotchka, allows the episodes to unfold succinctly, though at times the descriptions are curious (“a gust of warm air suddenly oozing by”). The author’s voice suits the impressionistic nature of the work, but it leads to challenging brevity. There are too many subjects; each individual portrait is focused up close but the fuller picture appears blurry and vague, like a pointillist painting in reverse. The epilogue attempts to wrap things up but then takes off on a new tangent, albeit one that extends one of the book’s themes. It barrels up out of nowhere and readers get only a glimpse before it fades out.
After mourning the separations caused by Balkanization and the Iron Curtain, Yakimov evokes hope by shows her characters intersecting in large and small ways. Readers who spot a connection or two will feel encouraged to seek more, and will also search for metaphorical and literal journeys to the fair.
Takeaway: Readers who want to explore the human side of the Cold War will appreciate this series of Eastern Bloc immigration narratives.
Great for fans of Elizabeth Kostova’s The Shadow Land, Ismail Kadare.
Design and typography: C+
Marketing copy: B-