The heroine of this engrossing and thoroughly contemporary novel is seventeen-year-old Sascha Naimann. Sascha was born in Moscow, but now lives in Berlin with her two younger siblings and, until recently, her mother. She is precocious, independent, street-wise, and, since her stepfather murdered her mother several months ago, an orphan.
Unlike most of her companions, she doesn’t dream of escaping from the tough housing project where they live. Sascha’s dreams are different: she longs to write a novel about her beautiful but naïve mother and she wants to end the life of Vadim, the man who brutally murdered her. (from Goodreads)
It is a very interesting novel, and re-thinking about it now to write this made me like it even more? I guess because as it is mostly told from the point of view of Sascha, who’s not going through her best moment, it left me at first with the impresion of being chaotic and a bit all over the place, but I guess that makes more sense now…
I think one of the main themes through this story is Sascha’s learning process about how to handle and relate with men, of which this novel is quite abundant: a father, who she never met and wanted her to be aborted; Harry, her mother’s last partner and a true “fairy tale prince”; Vadim, her stepfather, who murdered her mother and Harry; her younger brother Anton, who’s clearly suffering PTSD and about whom she’s constantly worrying; Volker, the editor of a newspaper, who had met her mother and to whom Sascha develops a very strong crush on; Felix, Volker’s son, who develops an incipient friendship and a very strong crush on Sascha. And several other satellite characters, each of one of them embodying different types of masculinity.
As well, different ideas of femininity are introduced, the main being her mother, her younger sister Alyssa, their tutor and carer Maria, and her neighbor Angela.
This seems to be a novel that also revolves around the margins, where everything seems a bit blurred, and nothing is in its absolute. She lives in the suburbs, in what another character calls a ghetto, and others see as a unsafe area, on the margins of society. Even within her apartment building, her family is seen as disgraced and is partly ostracized, due to the double murder that stroke them, in the very same apartment they’re still habitating. As an immigrant, Sascha lives in a sort of limbo, in a sense of un-placement. She’s living in a foreign country, but surrounded from her compatriots, going constantly from the German culture to the Russian culture and back. Because she was able to adapt and can blend so easily into her host country, she’s regarded with distrust from both ends. And as a seventeen year old girl, she’s far from being a child, but not way near of being an adult (or at least of being considered one).
And all of this is happening while she’s also fantasizing (or rather planning?) about the different ways she could murder her stepfather.