Reviews for Moonlight in Odessa : A Novel

Booklist Reviews 2009 August #1
This spirited debut centers on Daria, a headstrong yet affectionate young woman who is thrilled to land a job as a secretary in her hometown of Odessa, Ukraine. She excels at her position, which includes dealing with the local Mafia and constantly refusing her boss' sexual advances. To keep her boss satisfied, she recruits her neighbor, Olga, to be his mistress, a plan that works until Olga begins to eye Daria's job. Thus, Daria begins working as an interpreter for an online dating service that matches American men with Ukranian women. When she begins using the service for herself, she strikes up a relationship with a schoolteacher twice her age. As Daria yearns for love and a family, she must soon choose between her life in Odessa--and a burgeoning relationship with a Mob boss--or a new start in America. Charles' transatlantic saga explores the dichotomy between Eastern and Western cultures, as well as the assumptions and sacrifices people make in the hope of a better life. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2009 July #2
Ukrainian woman marries a much older American nearly sight unseen, but her husband and his drowsy corner of the United States are not what she expected.Daria's options in her native Odessa are grim. She's a trained engineer, but the best job she can find is as secretary to a foreigner, Mr. Harmon, who blithely announces during her interview that her duties include sleeping with him. For months she staves him off with Penelope-like resourcefulness, but after a near-rape in the office she decides her only remaining defense is to play procurer, so she sets up Harmon with an old schoolmate. Calculating, money-hungry Olga first freezes out Daria, then tries to supplant her in the job. Meanwhile Daria is moonlighting at the matchmaking service Soviet Unions, acting as liaison/interpreter between male American lonely-hearts and women looking for a way out. Her beloved grandmother urges her to light out for America with an e-mail suitor, and with some trepidation Daria does so, choosing Tristan, a stolid Californian 20 years her elder, over Vlad, the charismatic local mobster who's pursuing her. But "near San Francisco" means four hours away, and her jealous, controlling husband turns out to be a custodian rather than a schoolteacher. Charles paints a tender, bittersweet portrait of Ukraine and Odessa. Best of all, she doesn't oversimplify difficult choices and hard decisions or resort to cardboard villains, although noncity dwellers figure here mainly as caricatures.A lively, entertaining debut--chick lit with edge. Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2009 June #1

When Daria is hired by an international shipping firm with a branch in Odessa, she is immediately informed by her boss, Mr. Harmon, that she is expected to sleep with him. Daria finds a variety of ways to put him off while proving herself highly competent as a translator and clerk, but eventually she hooks up her friend Olga with Harmon. This works a little too well; not only does Harmon not bother her anymore but now he is not sure he needs her in his employ. Desperate, Daria finds a second job working for Valentina's mail-order bride service, where she's expected to translate for the American men who use the service. But Daria also dreams of finding a husband in America and begins emailing Tristan, who lives outside San Francisco. Alas, what Daria finds in the end is not what she expected. VERDICT Charles's first novel vividly contrasts life in Odessa, a city whose citizes are impoverished and sometimes prejudiced but nevertheless proud, with the materialism and isolation of life in America. Good for ambitious readers.--Josh Cohen Mid-Hudson Lib. Syst., Poughkeepsie, NY

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 May #3

This darkly humorous debut explores the world of eastern European mail-order brides and the men who finance them. Daria, a savvy, warmhearted but standoffish secretary in Odessa, Ukraine, fears that her boss will fire her after she refuses his sexual advances. So to keep him busy (and to keep her job), she sets him up with her shallow friend, Olga, who promptly turns on Daria. Fearing imminent unemployment, Daria takes a second job at Soviet Unions, an Internet dating service that connects Western men with available Ukrainian women. As Daria, who is fluent in English, bridges the language gap between the women and foreign men, she wonders if she will ever find true love. The endearing and forthright Daria is the perfect guide through the trickery and sincerity of chaotic courtships and short-order love. Meanwhile, her own romantic life swirls between a sweet suitor in California, a Ukrainian gangster and her manic boss. The teetering dance between humor and heartbreak burns through this tale that takes place at the intersection of love and money, East and West, male and female. (Sept.)

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