RUSSIAN TATTOO. By Elena Gorokhova. Simon & Schuster. 317 pages. $26.
Elena Gorokhova’s entire adult life seems on the surface to be about loss, discouragement and a feeling of displacement.
Much of what she lost was by choice. She chose to wed an American she barely knew, leaving behind Russia and her family. Many things that discouraged her — not knowing how to shop for shoes or groceries — she overcame, only to encounter other things that discouraged her, such as her daughter’s refusal to continue her Russian studies.
And maybe she’ll never attain the confidence and optimism she thinks so necessary to be an American.
Though this is no happy-go-lucky life story, it’s certainly not depressing. In this follow-up to “A Mountain of Crumbs,” about her childhood in Russia, Gorokhova writes about how much her mother controlled her life. What shines through is the loving normalcy of her family. Her first meal in America, ketchup squirts onto her dress; other than being in a new country, hasn’t everyone had such an oops?
It’s not an overly dramatic or morose book, one told mostly in snapshots as Gorokhova relives about 30 years of adjusting and not adjusting to America. As she says of reading some of her mother’s old letters, “There are no revelations, just a series of ordinary moments.”
“Russian Tattoo” is just a rather lovely memoir of a life different from most, but really not all that different.
Reviewer Carol Edwards is a freelance editor and farmer living in Marlboro County.