The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine
is the entertaining tale of Rosa Achmetowna, a Russian mother and grandmother whose strength of personality is overshadowed only by her unethical and passionate attempts to “help” her family. Rosa will go to any length when thus driven, often against her family’s wishes; she pats herself on the back for successful bribery, extortion, subterfuge, and blackmail. As narrator, Rosa paints herself as a care-giving protector, though readers will soon realize that her daughter, Sulfia, and granddaughter, Aminat, view her very differently. Rosie tries to control them by any means possible: threats, sabotage, and kidnapping are only this conniving grandmother’s first line of offense.
Bronsky’s powerful storytelling skills will carry readers through the 262 pages. The first-person narrative is direct, compelling, and often complex. Readers will find themselves questioning the truth of Rosie’s description. She speaks with more than a little bias. Rosa might knock you over after an argument and then narrate, “So-and-so bumped into me and fell right over, isn’t he clumsy?” She is intriguing. Every day is a crime in progress and her decisions could often be described as despicable, yet the reader, being privy to her reasoning, is tempted to sympathize with the tyrannical matriarch.
Although the ending gets strange, I suggest The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine
to anyone interested. Alina Bronsky has created a story which draws the reader forward while refusing to drown them in unnecessary information, a talent seemingly underappreciated among authors. Readers will be surprised, aghast, and amused at the glimpse inside the devious mind of Rosie and have to decide for themselves whether she is the hero or villain of The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine