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Kirkus Reviews: "A darkly humorous novel with sharp observations about the machinations of a monstrous mother."

Date: Mar 1 2011

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The fictional memoirs of Rosalinda Achmetowna, a Tartar Tiger Mother who ruins the lives of her family across several generations, and up to the end fails to realize her toxic influence.

The narrative begins with the pregnancy of Rosie’s daughter Sulfia, whom her mother (albeit with good reason) considers egregiously stupid. Rosie tries to abort the pregnancy with a knitting needle, but it turns out Sulfia was supposed to have had twins, and one, Aminat, survives. This granddaughter becomes the proverbial apple of Rosie’s eye, and Rosie tries to groom her for success. The grandmother takes over supervision of her education, hitting Aminat and withholding affection when she’s less than perfect—which it so happens is much of the time. (Typical of their interaction is Rosie’s promise to Aminat that if she agrees to certain behaviors for three months, Rosie will get her a cat. Aminat is compliant, and they go to a city market to get the cat, but when a vendor wants to charge a high price, the grandmother refuses to pay.) Rosie is saddled with an atrociously useless husband, Kalganow, and Sulfia goes from one foundering marriage to another, picking up another pregnancy along the way (though this granddaughter, Lena, Rosie finds unacceptably ugly because she’s not a Tartar). Rosie finally finds a way out of Russia by latching onto Dieter, a disreputable German who is supposedly writing a book on Tartar cuisine. Eventually, Aminat escapes the clutches of her grandmother and achieves a limited flicker of success on a German version of American Idol.

A darkly humorous novel with sharp observations about the machinations of a monstrous mother.

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