Hotel Moscow: Talia Carner
Living in a vacuum, not having any air to breath and not being able to move about as you please. How would you live like that? Freedom is something we often take fore granted but what would happen if the very freedoms you think you will be afforded just camouflage what others want you and the world to believe. The year 1993, the time period the constitutional crisis and a political stand off between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and the Russian Parliament. What happens and what you will learn as you open the pages of Hotel Moscow are the events that took place within a four day period and how a 38 year old woman named Brooke Fielding came to Moscow hoping to help teach a group of women about American business sense, how to create a business plan and much more but in reality learned some harder lessons about herself, life and the true meaning of being who you are. Fear, hate, distrust and the unknown are just some of what each of the characters within this compelling and heartbreaking story learn as they try to create new lives for themselves, meet obstacles blocking their paths and made to feel less than inferior because if a woman succeeds a man feels he might have failed. Putting women down, keeping them downtrodden, not allowing them to succeed and making sure that when they do they destroy what they have, Brooke and the women that enter the Moscow Hotel, befriend so many learn that good intentions are often misunderstood, some ventures fail before they start and just how far will you go to find a hidden truth that might change it all? As the relations between Yeltsin and Parliament deteriorated the conditions under which the population, especially women lived were even worse. Within a short time span Yeltsin hoped to rid him of the legislature and dissolve them but the problem was he did not have the power according to the constitution. So, what exactly was Brooke and the group of women that came to help Russian women understand business, create marketing and business plans in order to succeed walking into too? A New York investment manager, quite idealistic, hoping to make a difference along with a group of smart and bright women never saw nor did anyone else the truths behind what was behind hidden in plain sight from everyone. Accepting the invitation afforded to her, Brooke learned from the moment she landed in Moscow that things were not exactly what they seemed and from the start that bribes, graft and strong arming women was how the guards and the mafia treated them. Having to deal with some difficulties from the start would have sent someone else packing to leave but not Brooke. Entering the Moscow Hotel and riding the bus to the hotel quite revealing.
Nikolai Sidorov provided the invitation for the group and a young girl named Amanda headed it. The stench in the hotel room, the stench on each one of them made them realize that this was not going to be a luxury vacation. Their first stop and taste of reality came when the bus with a driver that was suspect to say the least, brought them to the Gorbachevskyaya Street Factory where a group of women were waiting. Bringing along many Ziploc bags filled with simple everyday things we take for granted, Brooke would use them as bribes and ways to fend off attackers. Bugs flying in their faces, sandwich smeared with a dollop of fish egg and an atmosphere that most would shy away from. Talking about business, how the Soviet women labored in these factories for practically no money and explaining privatization, Brooke was taken through the factory that made underwear and would hopefully help these women, whose products were made well to succeed? Meet the translator Swetlana who ran the factory and who would learn as Brooke would some long and hard lessons. As the day continues and the discussions move one Brooke poses many questions to her as the director of the whole factory and explains that she needs to not only know production but numbers and money too. But, something happens to awaken them to the realities of the time and several men, from their Mafia come in and destroy all that they had and many got injured along the way as Brooke and her group barely escapes. Running to the bus and seeing the door opened and the fact that the driver would not help or find a cop should have turned on a red flag. Although Swetlana realized that it was bad hospitality and that the group should leave something within Brooke kept her there wanting to learn more and find out why the Mafia and men would not want their women to succeed.
Dr. Olga Leonidovna Rozanova, is quite a powerful figure in more ways than one. Wanting to learn more about American business she attached herself to Brooke and they became fast friends. But, first the author allows us into the world of Swetlana, the dismal conditions living in a communal apartment and the cruelties inflicted on her and her daughter by those living there. How dare someone slap her daughter and not be punished? How dare someone try to hurt another child due to his or her selfishness and greed. With the pages of Chapter 8 the harsh realties and visual images set in.
Although Olga was a woman of prestige the guard did not treat her in any special way. Arriving at the hotel and realizing the guard wanted a bribe sets the tone for many contacts and interactions with these corrupt people. Crime became the norm and a society with high morals and values no longer existed as the Mafia seems to take over. As simple as the rudeness of the servers who would not even get Brooke a coffee cup and sent her on her way to find one on her own. As the author’s research is extensive we learn about unions in Russian, the regulations meant to control theft of hotel property and the constraints put upon people in order to just survive. Marketing and entrepreneur skills were the two major things she hoped to teach these woman but something and someone was taking it all away from them and this is where the plot gets interesting, the environment dangerous and the realities of the times and place come front and center.
The story is told over a short time period of several days. Within these several days readers will learn just how the government works, the corruption and lack of power that they yielded, the devastation and the deaths at their hand and their ability to take what belonged to so many and how Brooke, Olga, Swetlana and a mysterious young man strife to overturn what one person put in place.
Yeltsin was powerless in many respects and riots started in the streets and lives were in danger and curfew imposed. As Olga explains her rationale and how she hopes cooperatives will succeed and learn economic independence, a man named Judd Kornblum finds his way into the mix, wants to learn more about Brooke and from the start you know he has a hidden secret that might change it all. But, a revelation about who was behind what was happening to the businesses was needed as someone was taking the money out of the bank that was put there to pay workers and keep the businesses afloat. Which banks the cooperatives was dependent on and who was removing the money and where was it going? A close friend of Olga’s was being tortured, disfigured and burned for not signing some papers and the end result would be more than must tragic as Olga tries to help her friend but is warned by her husband not to try. The answer was documents that were needed to follow the money and the plan to get them would put not only Brooke in danger but others too. Original forms to transfer ownership in Vera, Olga’s friends office were the start. But, when Olga faces her boss and realizes that her quest in many ways is futile what he does makes her realize just how powerless she is and the cruelty that he inflicts on her is inexcusable. Fear, lack of self-esteem and self-image many of the men look to deflate and demoralize women in order to feel masculine and powerful. But, that does not stop Brooke and the two other women.
But, Brooke has a secret of her own and her past is revealed by the author as we get to know a hidden truth and her relationship with her parents comes front and center. Not wanting anyone to know she is Jewish a conversation with her mother just might change it all and her wanting to leave Russia is paramount but another obstacle comes her way.
Going to the Economic Authority building Brooke hoped that she and Olga would be able to get the documents and help they needed. Hopefully in and out in twenty minutes with the help of Svetlana’s translator, they would find out what they needed to help Vera’s factories. Going to the finance department where Svetlana’s friend works was the first step but the violence that ensured, the explosions and the danger was real and could prevent them from learning the truth. Stopped by guards, handing over money, watching the militiaman push her against the wall and the fear that engulfed her, would she survive? Was it worth it?
But, something within Svetlana snapped and she realized that her every move, Olga’s and Brooke’s was being watched, taped and recorded. Everything they said and did was overheard and seen. Within their search Olga finds documents that just might clarify it all and tell them where the money was going and who was getting it. Documents organized stating the shipments, the purchases permits, production, orders and expenses were right in front of her. As Brooke took out a paper and created a ledger the primary product was toothpaste and the result of their findings startling.
The Economic Authority opened bank accounts and stated that the bank guaranteed the bank loans for the initial operating costs. Then someone requested to switch banks. Signed by the head of the Finance Division of the Economic Authority, the path just like at the original factory led to the answers. Within pages 310 and 315 the maze is completed, the journey is made and the answers are there. The factory did well but someone was playing with his or her finances. Just what was the job of the Economic Authority? Who within this agency was funneling the money somewhere else and why? Corruption, deceit, mocking democracy and making sure those women would be kept subservient their goal. But, more one man would use his power and authority to abuse and debase women, find his way into the beds of many and then toss them aside.
As Brooke hoped to connect with her boss in America and get some protection and help, just what did this man named Judd have to do with it all and why was he always there when things got dangerous? As the pieces become part of a complex puzzle and the truth is known will someone be able to come to their aid or is it too late? As Brooke finds someone to help with their cause and recounts Olga’s investigation, what happens next as one reporter just might break it all wide opened and a hidden truth will change it all for everyone?
Just why was everyone watching Brooke? What were Sidorov’s reasons for inviting her and the group? What is the hidden motive behind it all? When both Brooke and Svetlana reveal their inner most thoughts, the financial transactions and the plot exposed, will anyone live to tell it all or will Brooke be another casualty. Someone does not want them to succeed and someone will pay dearly. A friendship that will remain in her heart forever. The chance of freedom for one and the tragic ending for another as one world comes apart and the people of Russia need to find their way to freedom but will they ever is free?
The ending is powerful and one letter tells it all as Brooke has to face her past and make a decision that might change it all. Told within a span of a few days author Talia l Corner’s research into the time period is extensive as we learn of the highly volatile situation, see the demonstrators take away the police barriers and urged by their leaders to take over the Mayor’s office, attempt to storm the television center, and army which had originally appeared to be neutral. But on October fourth the Supreme Soviet building was stormed and the leaders of the resistance arrested. The conflict lasted ten days and
army, which had initially declared its neutrality, stormed the Supreme Soviet building in the early morning hours of October 4 by Yeltsin’s order, and arrested the leaders of the resistance. This as you will relive it along with Brooke and those within this story was the worst civil war since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. An ending so powerful and a conflict that would change the country forever. Hotel Moscow: A powerful story where lessons in life are learned, truths and pasts are faced and although Brooke went for one reason she came away with much more learning the true meaning of friendship, trust, understanding and recognizing her Jewish Heritage and embracing it.
Fran Lewis: Reviewer