The Invention of Exile || Vanessa Manko

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Title: The Invention of Exile
Author: Vanessa Manko
Length: 304 pages
Publication date: August 14, 2014
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 2/5


Austin Voronkov is a Russian immigrant to Connecticut in 1913. As an inventor and engineer, he loves the opportunities he has in the United States. He has met a beautiful American woman named Julia, who agrees to become his wife. But Austin is wrongly accused of being an anarchist, and as a result he and his wife are deported to Russia. Over the next several years, they move from place to place in Europe, having 3 children along the way. Because of the Russian civil war and unrest in Europe, the family decides to go to Mexico, where they will try to get permission to go back to the US. Julia and the children are eventually able to return to their home, while Austin must stay behind in Mexico. Over the years of their separation, Austin must deal with his feelings of isolation from what he knows, and struggles to stay connected to his family.

This book had a lot of promise. The summary sounded really interesting to me, right up my alley. I really enjoy historical fiction and I hadn't read anything set in this situation. However, basically everything about his book was a big disappointment. The writing seemed like the author was attempting to be very poetic, but it just came across as scattered. There were SO many sentence fragments, I couldn't even handle it by the end. The scattered writing also made the story feel horribly repetitive; in fact, if it had been written/edited properly, it probably would have lost 50 or 60 pages.

The dialogue was another problem for me. It was often strained, and not because of Austin's grasp of English. The characters felt quite disconnected from each other, like they were strangers being forced to interact, or bad actors without chemistry. I will say that the author was very good at painting a picture of the setting. I really did feel like I was in Mexico with Austin. Unfortunately, as this was a character based story, that wasn't able to carry the story.

I also had a problem with how the author handled the characters. A few side characters were introduced, and then dropped with no mention again. There is a significant antagonist of the story, a character that causes Austin incredible amounts of stress, to the point where he looks over his shoulder all the time for this character. This character seems like a big deal, yet two-thirds of the way through the book, it seems like the author literally forgot about him! He, the huge problem for Austin, just stops being mentioned at all. He doesn't have any last lines, Austin stops giving him any thought, and it makes you wonder if he was even in the book at all?

The ending was horrific - it was such an anticlimactic letdown! I actually kept trying to turn the page on my ereader because I could not accept that I had reached the end! It felt like a section of pages had to be missing! I was so upset because after struggling through the story, I didn't even have a good ending to show for it!

Now, in full disclosure, I did have a galley of it, and I truly hope that there were things legitimately missing from it that are in the final copy of the book. The story truly did have a lot of promise, but the writing was too weak to pull it off. This is a debut novel, and I feel like if the author keeps working at it, she could have some wonderful stories in the future. I also feel like a strong editor might have made all the difference with this book.


I received a digital copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

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