At first glance a group of American women traveling to Moscow to teach other women business skills sounds great and very altruistic. But once the trip is put into context it sounds very dumb and dangerous. Corruption is rampant everywhere. Everyone from police, to politicians, to the bus driver, and to the average Joe on the corner requires a bribe before they're willing to do anything. At first it's just a minor irritation to Brooke and her companions, but it quickly escalates to violence and intimidation.
The Russian women that Brooke bonds with seem to have an air of strength, but they're just putting on a good front. On the inside, they are full of fear and desperation. Svetlana, a young mother, is attacked on Brooke's first day in Russia. The only thing that gets Svetlana through the day, is her daughter, Natasha, waiting for her at the end of a tough day. Olga has worked hard for her government position, but everyday her corrupt boss strips away another piece of her soul.
At this time, women in general are seen as less than. They are less than men. They're opinions don't matter. This is a concept that Svetlana and Olga don't want to accept, but are often powerless to stop it. Brooke doesn't understand how everyone can just accept the rampant corruption. She wants to help end the powerlessness. She wants to help get rid of the threats and violence that Russian business owners often face. She wants to help foster a new economy. But of course no good deed goes unpunished. At the time, this is a society that is willing to spy on one another for the right price.
The book alternates between the Brooke, Svetlana, and Olga's perspective. Brooke is the main character, but I had a hard time connecting with her. Her approach to things felt a little clinical and not emotional. To connect with a character, I have to feel some sort of empathy and I just didn't for Brooke. She's the American swooping in and trying to save the day. I connected more with Svetlana and Olga. They have a story that I could get behind and root for. You want them to get away from this corrupt society. The pacing of the book overall was a little disjointed. Sometimes I had trouble following the narrative. But the story itself is very engaging and I would read another book by Talia Carner!
Rating: Give it a try
Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (William Morrow) as part of a blog tour with TLC Book Tours.