Tatiana's Wedding by Cynthia A. Robinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When I began reading Tatiana's Wedding, I was reminded of a book I read a few years ago called Evening by Susan Minot. Both books are about very ill women waiting out the last days of their lives for death to finally set them free from the hardships of terminal illness. Both books involve what these women think about and what memories come back to them while they are unable to do anything but remain idly in bed with very little, if anything, to distract them from their deteriorating conditions. As I got further into Tatiana's Wedding though, it was clear that the similarity between books ends there, with the bedridden women waiting to die.
In spite of the title which indicates this may be only about Tatiana, the book is really about three women with Tatiana being the one who connects all the character in the book, but Laura, her daughter-in-law, and Delfina, her granddaughter, also have significant roles in telling this story. Each chapter begins with part of Tatiana's story which is in italics, followed by a longer detailed part about Delfina both as a child and as an adult. It's an interesting technique that works very well in this book thanks to the writing skills of Cynthia A Robinson. The story explores family relationships as well as how one person's influence can change the outcome of someone else's life whether that's the intent or not. Many years can be wasted based on the subjective opinion of just one person. It's tragic, but it happens.
Delfina was 7 years old when her mother died. It happened during the Christmas season while Delfina and her brother Stefan (he was named after his grandfather which is significant) were vacationing in Florida with their grandparents, Stefan and Tatiana. At first Delfina was told her mother, Laura, was sick and that's why she was neglecting her calls to the hotel in Florida. It wasn't until Delfina got back to her home in New York that she was finally told the truth (IF it really were the truth); her mother had been murdered while she was sleeping. As if that weren't upsetting enough, it was worse when Delfina was told her father had been the one who killed her mother. With her mother dead and her father in jail charged with her murder, Delfina and Stefan no longer had a home nor the love and support of at least one parent. Tatiana and her husband Stefan stepped in to take over the care and well being of the children for as long as they were needed. This was far from the perfect solution. Delfina had many unanswered questions about her mother's death, but no one would offer her more than mumbled platitudes. She got very few if any answers, and this caused quite a bit of friction between Delfina and other family members but particularly for her and Tatiana. There are many rituals Polish people adhere to when there's a death in the family, and in Polish households, children are expected to have some role in the process of the funeral preparations and the grieving. Tatiana refused to allow Delfina and Stefan to participate in many of the traditions Delfina was clearly aware of and wanted to be a part of. However, Tatiana got her way, so all the closure aspects of a funeral and wake were denied to Delfina. Was it any wonder that she became obsessed with her mother's life and sought out whatever scraps of information she could get others to share with her. The only exception to the reluctance within the family to even discuss Laura was Delfina's Aunt Eva, so she's the one who Delfina turned to more and more as she got older. Aunt Eva did not have all the answers to Delfina's questions, but she was honest in telling Delfina what she wanted to know whenever Eva could help. For this reason Delfina grew closer to Aunt Eva which had a detrimental effect on Delfina's relationships with everyone else, particularly with Tatiana. As time passed by, Delfina created an exaggerated idea of who her mother was, and it appeared as though the effects of this particular family death on Delfina would last through her lifetime.
Although Tatiana's Wedding may seem to be about death when it begins, for me it quickly came to be about the choices women make, and how times have changed their ability to make better decisions. I particularly enjoyed one part when Tatiana goes shopping for a dress. It had to be a red dress, and it would need to be in the largest size the store had. Tatiana didn't care what anyone thought of her dress; the point was she decided to buy it without first considering the opinions of all her family members. She felt justified in doing something strictly for herself. It was a real "Attagirl" moment, and there should have been crowds shouting BRAVO! Tatiana didn't have the opportunity for many moments like that, but when she finally did get one, it was as though she had to spit in someone else's eye for the whole process to matter. She had to be angry for it to mean something.
I also thought Cynthia A.Robinson did a very good job of getting inside the thoughts and feelings of Delfina. Delfina's story began when she was 7 years old and continued through to adulthood. It was interesting to observe whether Delfina's opinions changed from the child's point of view to an adult one once she'd been able to look at the information she had with a more detailed base rather than what her little girl self perceived.
This would make a wonderful read for a book club. There are so many levels in the book that could lead to involved and interesting conversations. Was Tatiana justified in her behavior? Did her viewpoint matter nearly so much now that she was about to die? And what about the legacy she left her granddaughter? In spite of what good she did in her life, could she ever recognize that some things simply were NOT about her?
I received an ARC from Publerati in exchange for an honest review. Honestly? This book is a winner. Nothing but 5* will do.
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