Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Book Review - My Grandmother's Braid; Alina Bronsky

TITLE/AUTHOR: My Grandmother's Braid;  Alina Bronsky

PUBLISHER: Europa Editions


GENRE: Fiction 

FORMAT:  eGalley/LENGTH: 177 pp.

SOURCE: NetGalley

SETTING(s): Germany

ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  A immigrant story with both tender and comical undertones.

BRIEF REVIEW: The larger than life "grandmother" in this story is a former Russian Ballerina who has immigrated to Germany from Russia with her husband and grandson, Maxim (Maxi) in search of a better life.  They live in a nine story building for refugees known as The Sunshine Inn.

Almost immediately it becomes obvious that Grandmother rules the roost.  She leads poor Maxi, who has just turned 7 as the story begins, to believe he frail, requires bland food, and is too weak and "mentally deficient" to attend school. None of these things are true, he's a bright, observant child and very loyal to grandmother.  Grandfather, takes a backseat in this novel, but we do know a few things about him: he has "Asian genes" and a wandering eye when it comes to women.  When Grandmother befriends some other refugees in the building, namely, Nina, a single woman and her daughter, Vera who is a bit older than Maxi, things go from bad to worse.

Translated from German, the story flowed very well. I can't ever recall being disappointed by a Europa Edition and, I've read plenty of them over the years. Bronsky's writing style is wonderful: human, tender and comical. This one had a perfect blend of laugh out loud moments with an equal blend of seriousness as well.  Told from the perspective of young Maxi, we quickly learn there are two sides to grandmother and for good reason. Referred to as only grandmother or (Oma) throughout this short novel, it is only as we read the very last word of the book that we learn her name was Margo but, she was a character that I'll not easily forget.

(NOTE: If you think you might like to read this short novel, please don't read the lengthy publisher description, it gives away too much of the story IMO.)

RATING: 4.5/5

MEMORABLE QUOTES:  (that made me smile)

"The strawberry ice cream that I'd unexpectedly survived taught me two things: Grandmother was wrong more often than I'd suspected, and happiness was easier to find than I'd thought.  The colorful world of forbidden foods, suddenly opened up to me."

"I met a delightful woman. Her name is Nina and she teaches piano.  Lives here with her daughter. The girl's Maxi's age, but normal. No husband, lucky her, bringing up her illegitimate daughter all alone...."

(Although Grandmother wasn't Jewish she attended services on a regular basis)

"Behind her show of confidence I sensed deep fear of being exposed as an imposter and being sent back to the collapsing Soviet Union.

While the shabbiness of the refugee home disappointed Grandmother, the shiny, new synagogue elicited a respectful word or two.  She wholeheartedly welcomed the fact that women sat separately from men during services. 'I'm happy not to have to see their grouchy mugs for a while.'  She sought out the neighbors she knew from the refugee home and ensnared them in long conversations at the cold buffet before she inconspicuously--she thought--swiped this or that food item."


  1. That sounds really good and we enjoyed those quotes.

  2. This sounds fascinating to me, Diane. Thanks for posting about it. Will look it up wherever I can find it.

  3. Judith, I think you would enjoy this one. I'll be curious to read your thoughts if you do get to it.

  4. It feels so good to enjoy a book this much.

  5. Sounds really good... I just downloaded a sample to my kindle.

  6. Good review! I've seen this book here and there and really had no urge to read it but after reading your review I plan on getting a copy!

  7. I have heard about this book. Glad you found it good.

  8. Thank you for the tip on the publisher's review. I get that they want to capture a readers attention but definitely don't want to be spoiled. This one is going on my list!

  9. Adding this to my list! The length makes it perfect for this year's reading :)


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