Forty Rooms by Olga Grushin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Forty Rooms is a look at all the rooms that a woman can occupy in her life—from her childhood bedroom to dorms rooms and eventually to the rooms in her own home. While she's discovering herself within these rooms, she is also hiding a part of herself—the part of herself that could lead to immortality, if given time.
At first this book seems to be more of a series of descriptive vignettes rather than a typical narrative, though once the reader moves with the narrator through the forty rooms, the narrative begins to build, focusing on the life of the young Russian woman who makes all kinds of decisions, which end up being a little bit of procrastination—today she lives, tomorrow she'll write. She also allows her decisions, particularly when it comes to working on her poetry, to be heavily influenced by her parents, her love interests, and eventually her children.
It's a book that's surrounded by the ever-present question in life: are we all to follow in tradition with jobs and family and a secured life or do we have to give all that up to have a truly free soul, free to be creative and break boundaries? Is there any way for a person to surround themselves with tradition and still feel completely free? And is this question posed only to women, because they are the traditional caretakers, or do men have these struggles too? The protagonist asks herself these questions throughout the book, wondering if one small choice or one big regret may have sent her on her way to a greater life, or as she says, just a footnote in the life of some greater woman.
Forty Rooms is extremely thought-provoking work and provides a launching pad for a myriad of discussions about art vs. tradition and how these things can push and pull a person's soul.
*Review copy provided by Penguin First to Read
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