The President Shop

Vesna Maric. Sandorf Passage, $18.95 trade paper (212p) ISBN 978-9-5335-1295-2
Maric’s inventive if slightly unbalanced debut mixes political allegory and fantasy in a family saga about conflicting attitudes toward an unnamed Balkan country’s authoritarian ruler. Married shopkeepers Ruben and Rosa are former partisan fighters who defended their country from fascist forces during WWII. Later, during the Cold War, Ruben still adores their partisan leader, now the president, even as his countrymen chafe under his oppressive rule. (Ruben’s younger brother, Diogen, for instance, worries the regime will persecute him for being gay.) Ruben and Rosa’s daughter, Mona, develops a romantic and intellectual infatuation with an older girl named after Clarice Lispector. In these sections, stilted compared to the rest, Mona and Clarice discuss art and love in a fallout shelter where Robinson, Mona’s great uncle and a stereotypically kooky inventor, has built a machine for seeing into the future. Meanwhile, Rosa dusts off her wartime tracking and survival skills to search for two sisters who have gone missing, and Ruben receives an invitation to meet the president. At her best, Maric pulls off captivating moments of personal and political disillusionment, but the swirl of action sometimes leaves the reader wanting more. Still, this offers a memorable testament to how politics can fracture a family. Agent: Sarah Such, Sarah Such Literary Agency. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 01/06/2021
Release date: 03/01/2021
Genre: Fiction
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