Did: My Life as a Silent Movie, by Jesse Lee Kercheval, 2013, 9780253010247.
Short version: Grieving widow goes on wild goose chase for biological family.
Long version: Emma lost her husband and only child in a car wreck. She has shut herself into her house. No, she cannot be in her house, she spends her time in their home's empty basement apartment.
Emma's Aunt Z shows up and lets slip that Emma was adopted. What? Huh? Really? Emma's family lived in France when her father was in the Army. One day her dad brought Emma home. The family later moved to the U.S. Emma tracks down their former French housekeeper/nanny in New York. Emma travels there for information.
Nanny says her former roommate became pregnant and Emma's adoptive father took Emma in. Who was the father? says Emma. This guy, the famed silent movie actor Ivan Mousjakine. Emma's dead husband was a silent film scholar and Emma studies to find Mousjakine died in 1939. Nope, says Nanny, he was alive. Here is an address to try out in Paris. People in Paris don't move around much, maybe your bio mom is still there.
Emma travels to Paris. Emma finds the house. Neighbor says the guy living there runs a canal boat tour. Emma goes to tour boat and sees a guy who likes just like her. Emma has a brother.
More things happen. Emma learns the sad past of her lousy biological parents and her brother, Ilya. Their mom was a hardcore commie. Mom rejected Mousjakine and kicked him out of his own apartment. Mom took Ilya to Prague so she could be a loyal Party member. Ilya later immigrated back to Paris and lived with Mousjakine. Mom stayed in Prague to carry on the Revolution. When Ilya was 13 Mousjakine traveled to Prague to see Mom and Mousjakine disappeared. Ilya left on his own.
Emma sees a silent film scholar in Paris for more research on Mousjakine. Amongst the scholars files is a letter she received from someone in Moscow saying Mousjakine is alive and a monk outside Moscow. Impossible. He'd be 112 years old. Nah, says Ilya, he lied about his age, he'd be 102. Emma.
More things happen and I will not recap them. Emma quickly attaches onto Ilya. She is swimming alone and he is a buoy. Emma abandons Indiana with nothing but a toothbrush and extra underwear in her purse. She impulsively flies to Paris once she gets an address. She moves into Ilya's apartment. She gets possessive with Ilya. Emma is not coping well.
Ilya is not coping well. He lived on his own for a long time. Emma - upon prompting - has the vaguest memories of Ilya. Ilya remembers Emma. Ilya missed her for years. Ilya hates his parents. Ilya was married to a doctor. DoctorWife was a drug user and drug use induced a premature birth of their daughter. DoctorWife skipped out and moved to Australia. Premature daughter was brain damaged and lives in the care of a home run by nuns.
Daughter dies during the story and Ilya calls his ex-wife in Australia (the nuns had the number). Total cunt of a woman did not even know the girl was still alive. Total-Cunt-of-a-Woman says,"Unusual" for someone like that to live so long. If that is not enough, Ilya thinks he has lung cancer again and has been self-medicating with morphine.
1. 206 pages. A good book but not my bag.
2. Parisian geography love.
3. Throw-it-away-and-start-over love.
4. Gratuitous Parisian bakeries.
5. Happy-but-bittersweet-ending love. Especially with all the death, depression, and despair from the rest of the novel.