Purge

Sofi Oksanen, Author, Lola Rogers, Translator , trans. from the Finnish by Lola Rogers. Grove/Black Cat $14.95 (388p) ISBN 978-0-8021-7077-4

Oksanen's uneven first novel to be translated into English follows one family through three generations during the Soviet occupation of the Baltics. In 1992, Aliide Truu finds a ragged and abused young woman collapsed near her rural Estonian home. The girl, Zara, is supposedly fleeing from her husband, and Aliide, an aged widow, whisks Zara inside and offers her shelter and sustenance. But when Zara shows Aliide an old picture of Aliide and her sister, Ingel, it becomes clear that Zara's choice in sanctuary wasn't coincidental. The contours of each of their lives are gradually revealed: Zara's path from being a poor Russian teenager to a fugitive sex worker (depictions of her working life are especially graphic and lean toward gratuitous) with a violent pimp on her trail; Aliide and Ingel navigating the beginning of the Soviet occupation as they settle into their adult lives in the 1940s, plagued by an oppressive regime and the tortuous demands of jealousy, deceit, and love. The translation has some rough spots, and the narrative can be heavier on history than humanity. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 02/01/2010
Release date: 04/01/2010
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