Book Notes: Margaryta Yakovenko’s Out of Place

This is the Ukrainian writer from Spain that I mentioned recently, and Desencajada (Out of Place) is her first novel.

Yakovenko is a great admirer of Hemingway, and her prose is very unadorned, clean, and whatever is the opposite of fussy. If you teach Hispanic literature, I highly recommend this book for your students. It’s really easy to read. It’s short, it’s cheap on Kindle, and you really can’t go wrong with this one as a teacher.

Out of Place is an autobiographical novel. Yakovenko’s parents became illegal immigrants in Spain in 1999, almost exactly when I became a legal immigrant to Canada. She was 7 years old, and her novel describes the tragedy that migration is to a child who didn’t choose it and can’t make peace with it. People aren’t suitcases. You can’t move them around without damaging them. The protagonist of Yakovenko’s novel is a traumatized, confused woman who can’t find a way to make peace with what happened to her. This book isn’t a work of genius like Fernanda Melchor’s The Tempest Season but it’s a strong novel that tells an important story in a beautiful way.

I also want to mention that I don’t share the author’s political beliefs. Her take on the war in Ukraine is imbecilic. And her cheerleading for open borders is even more so, given that her own art belies it. But none of that matters. It’s a good novel that should be read.

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