Blurb (as on Goodreads):
When Alina’s brother-in-law defects to the West, she and her husband become persons of interest to the secret services, causing both of their careers to come grinding to a halt.
As the strain takes its toll on their marriage, Alina turns to her aunt for help – the wife of a communist leader and a secret practitioner of the old folk ways.
Set in 1970s communist Romania, this novella-in-flash draws upon magic realism to weave a tale of everyday troubles, that can’t be put down.
Alina’s otherwise happily married life comes under strain when her brother in law defects to the west. Under the current communist rule (better the 1970s and the 80s) in Romania, Alina and her husband Liviu face harassment by the secret service agents each day. As Alina fails to make her mother understand her situation and her grief, she finds herself drawn towards her Aunt Theresa, the wife of a powerful communist leader and a believer of strange, mythic elements.
‘Bottled Goods’ is Alina’s struggle to bring some balance into her married life. But her husband isn’t up for any meaningful conversation and her mother would rather hand her over to the secret services herself than hear of her thoughts to flee the country. Alina’s chaotic emotional state, her disintegrating marriage and her tryst with her mother, along with months of bad luck pushes her to beg to a particular Saint for help, who only shows up after a certain ritual in the shortest night of the year.
A heady mix of political turmoil and magical beings, ‘Bottled Goods’ is about our beliefs and how far we would go in search of freedom and happiness. The supernatural elements work wonders for the plot, giving it a certain edge that makes you bite your nails( because these things can be pretty unpredictable). The variations in the narration makes it more engaging. We see spontaneous and driven characters and the complex relationship between them, especially in the face of violence and crisis. Alina’s voice as she struggles with her situation, the life of isolation and the emotional torture she goes through due to the regime and its rules stands out and strong.
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*Thank you Fairlight Books for a copy of the book. All opinions are my own*