Thursday, November 4, 2010

Review: "Moonlight in Odessa" by Janet Skeslien Charles

Daria is a smart, twenty-something bilingual secretary working for an Israeli shipping company in Odessa, Ukraine. She's content living with her grandmother, but secretly hopes that one day she will find true love. When her boss starts coming on to her and implying that if she doesn't sleep with him he will replace her, Daria finds a second job translating letters from Ukranian women into English for a local matchmaking company which specializes in finding American husbands for Ukranian women. As she grows increasingly frustrated with her limited opportunities in Ukraine, Daria starts communicating with a gentle American teacher and decides to follow her dreams of becoming an American citizen, even if that means that she needs to marry a virtual stranger.

Once in America Daria finds that it is not exactly what she imagined. She loves the country, but many of the people prove to be ignorant, including her brand new husband. Daria finds herself homesick for her friends, her grandmother, and even the mafia gangster that stole her heart. Daria needs to decide if staying in America, a country filled with opportunities, is worth staying in her dubious marriage.

I absolutely loved this book. It has everything that I look for in a good read- great characters, a compelling plot, and a little taste of a different culture. The cultural aspect of this book was fantastic. The majority of the plot takes place while Daria lives in Odessa, and Janet Skeslien Charles certainly knows her stuff. I was amazed to find out about how different that culture is from ours. Gangsters control many financial aspects of the city, bribery is both common and expected, and it is next to impossible to leave your city of birth because the opportunities to do so are so limited. I also appreciated Daria's reactions to things that Americans and Canadians find so commonplace once she moves to California. Things such as barbeques and refusing food add to her culture shock.

Daria herself was endearing throughout. I appreciated that she was portrayed as a strong woman with a backbone, rather than a flighty individual. Of course, the plot was interesting as well, and it was an eye-opening look into the world of mail-order brides.

Moonlight in Odessa is a well-rounded book with an abundance of interesting plot points and characters to keep the reader interested. This would be a great choice for someone who enjoys women's fiction with a tight plot.

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Recommended to: Fans of women's fiction with an armchair traveller aspect incorporated
Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge, New Author Challenge 2010

My thanks to the author who sent me this book in exchange for my honest opinion.


  1. So glad you liked this book as much as I did. I haven't met anyone who hasn't liked it yet. It's just THAT good!

  2. Ooh, sounds fantastic! I won this one from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program and have had my eye on it for weeks. Hope to read it very soon! Like you, I love books that give us a peek into a different culture -- and if there's a love story? More the better!

  3. oh wow, this sounds really good. Thanks.

  4. This sounds like a great book! I always love reading about books that are set outside of our time and/or our place - learning a little something about a different culture is always fun! Thanks for the review!

    Julie @ Knitting and Sundries