Alina Adams’ hard to put down historic novel, The Nesting Dolls, is a multi-generational journey of three women, Daria, Natasha, and Zoe. Their odyssey begins in the early 1930’s, from Odessa on the shores of the Black Sea, to the frozen hearts and tundra of Siberia, finally alighting in the crowded streets of today’s Brighton Beach. Each woman had an epiphany about the true nature, character and motives driving the actions of those they held dear.
Daria was tutored by her wily mother in the ways to capture the heart of the one who captivated her from the moment she saw him. But the winds of change soon made Daria realize that there are things she could not control. What had been a life of promise with her first love and husband, Edward, a talented piano virtuoso, soured as news leaked through the sieve of Soviet secrecy of the fast-approaching menace of Germany. The arrival of the Beast from the West altered the course of the young couple’s destiny, as it did for all Jews in the Soviet Union and Europe. Then there was the other man, Adam, a stoic, concrete hulk of a man whose presence, at first unwelcome, became a vital and integral part of Daria’s salvation. As the muffled explosions of the approaching Luftwaffe drew near to Daria’s home in Odessa, the realization gripped her that she had misjudged both Edward and Adam.
Natasha was denied the opportunity to pursue an academic career in math because of the accident of her having been born a Jew. Thus, was the USSR 1970, a state rife with anti-Semitism. Having been promised a fulfilling life in her chosen field of math, if she played by the rules, she discovered to her chagrin that she never knew that there were special rules for Jews. Like her grandmother, Daria, she also had two men in her life, both of whom she sorely misjudged. There was the ever-dependable Boris, her childhood friend, who she took for granted, and her newly found charismatic, refusenik, heartthrob, Dima, who captured her imagination and heart. Natasha found herself drawn into a web of emotional intrigue and physical danger; a state not hard to come by in Communist Russia.
Zoe, the contemporary Brighten Beach Americanized woman, received the legacy of her great-grandmother’s wisdom, “Love is not a potato.” It meant you must carefully choose the right person to spend your life with because if things go awry, you cannot just toss it out like a rotten potato. Heeding the sage advice handed down from the shores of the Black Sea, Zoe set out to choose the perfect husband. So, after having constructed a Venn diagram to see where the overlapping desired qualities of a future husband would land, choose she did, or so she thought.
Like the nesting dolls, Daria, Natasha, and Zoe were encased in each other’s lives by lineage and a shared desire to overcome obstacles blocking their paths to the fulfillment of their dreams. But as they learned, sometimes life does not give you what you want, because it saves you from yourself, by giving you what you need. In rare cases it delivers both.