If you've not picked up a copy, do. With her characteristic ballsiness, Tumarkin's married a rich reflection on twentieth century Russia, to a gripping story of intimate relationships.
I interviewed Maria for The Big Issue earlier this year. Here's how I concluded:
When I ask Tumarkin what she loves about the book, she is uncharacteristically evasive. She won’t say ‘love’. But what she doesn’t hate about Otherland – what doesn’t “bring on an immediate toothache,” in her words – is its honesty. And I must admit: I also admire this, in the book and in my friend. She doesn’t shy away from the brutality and decay of her old home, or the cynicism and calculation of many Russians – including the glamur girls, seeking the financial security of a husband. But she also includes the moments of quiet, abiding human warmth and union – the stuff of family, not statecraft. It is an edifying, illuminating read.
Maria Tumarkin will not praise her book like this. But as she finishes her lukewarm coffee, she relates the comments of her mother and daughter. Having seen themselves portrayed in Otherland, sometimes unflatteringly, Svetlana and Billie still told the author exactly the same thing: “It’s true.If you're curious about the coffee hits that lead to Maria's writerly "toothache", she's also a guest in my 'Write Tools' series: here.