Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Lullaby of Polish Girls -- a review

Dagmara Dominczyk’s The Lullaby of Polish Girls has a great title – one that enticed me to request it from the Early Reviewers Club. There doesn’t, however, seem to be a lullaby quality to the novel, nor references to lullabies – literal or figurative. I’m not sure why the author chose it. Nevertheless, I’m glad it got me to open the book.

The novel is told from three different character points of view, and in three different time lines.

Three Polish women have separate personal obstacles to their happiness. They all know each other, but were separated in their teenage years and are estranged through geographic distance, and lifestyle. The novel weaves in their separate stories, going back to when they were children and had first met each other, to when they were teenagers and young adults, up to the present.

The story ends with a poignant reunion, but not before each woman grows in strength to the point that they are able to solve their own immediate disasters.

I was really glad that the novel ended this way. It’s empowering to read that they all individually “fixed” themselves first before reuniting.

Yes, camaraderie is lovely, and being part of a community of friends is the only way I want to live my life, but knowing that each woman had personal strength and courage to make it by herself separate from her friends is important.

The characters were real. The author did a great job at separating them with distinctive voices. I did have trouble with the multiple time lines. Dominczyk was careful to identify in which year the setting was taking place, which town they’re in, and which character was speaking. But still I struggled with matching the adult characters with their adolescent counterparts. Was Anna, the adult, the one who did such-and-such when she was a teenager? Or was that Justyna?

I liked the interspersing of Polish words, even though I don’t know any Polish. It added flavor and color to scenes that might’ve sagged without it. I also got a kick out of knowing that anyone from Poland reading this would get extra pleasure, glee, and resonance from seeing those words.

Dagmara Dominczyk writes well and develops her characters with flaws and fears – just like real people. The Lullaby of Polish Girls is worth reading if you like family or friend dynamics, well-developed characters, Poland, or stories with unique time lines.

3 out of 5 stars; I liked this book, but probably won’t read it again.

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