Review: Forty Rooms, by Olga Grushin

grushinBeginning in the humble Moscow apartment where the narrator recounts her bath time rituals as a four-year-old, this cleverly designed novel briskly ushers readers through the forty living quarters that define one woman’s life, from childhood to old age.  In each dwelling, we watch Mrs. Caldwell come of age: as daughter, as friend, as lover, as poet, as wife, and so on.

As she forges a new life at college in the United States, Mrs. Caldwell resolves to avoid an “ordinary” domestic life, but as time and circumstances creep up on her, she begins to choose the path of least resistance.  Her Spartan post-grad apartment is soon replaced by a sprawling suburban home, her poetic zeal by a compulsive shopping habit.  The adventurous, artistic life that Mrs. Caldwell once imagined occupying remains just out of her reach as she struggles to salvage the dreamer she once was before it is too late.

These brief glimpses into Mrs. Caldwell’s rooms offer profound insight into the passage of time and the sometimes random ways our lives unfold.  This is a good read for those who enjoyed Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies or James Salter’s Light Years.

RATING: * * * * Very, very good

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Reviewed by: Susannah B.

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