After losing his job and his wife, Lev leaves his little daughter with his mother and sets off for London to find work and support his family. By a lucky chance, he meets a woman on the bus who helps him find a job after a brief period of homelessness. Working in the kitchen of an elite restaurant, Lev learns that he loves to cook and carefully observes the chef and other workers to glean their skills. Through a relationship with his co-worker and a path to success in his new career, Lev begins to understand the wider world while growing to appreciate and love his home even more.
I felt a little uncertain about this book while I was reading it and I still do now. I’m not quite sure how to review it because it’s one of those books that I liked but didn’t really like that much. The best part, clearly, was Lev’s sense of accomplishment and his ambition once he realized what he really wanted out of his life. I love to read about ambitious, goal-oriented, determined people. Obviously life gets in the way sometimes, but I can identify with them the best. Unfortunately, however, Lev also seems to have a somewhat ignorant or cruel streak towards women. He does not want a relationship after his wife, so he rebuffs one woman, but then he finds another, decides he’s in love with her, and ends up treating her quite badly when things don’t end the way he expects. The girl is partly at fault for leading him on, but all of his relationships with women bothered me.
I did like the entire theme of home running through this novel. Even when Lev makes a groove for himself in London, he still misses the people and the place that is his home. Eventually he realizes that it’s the people and not the place itself, but that doesn’t stop him from trying to do his best for his home country and making a difference for his family. The title is really well chosen; even though Lev starts out leaving home, the entire novel is at the core about his journey returning and how he’s going to get there as a more successful man than when he left.
I’m still a little on the fence about whether to recommend this book or not. It is one of those difficult reads that falls in the middle, that I know I’m supposed to love but I didn’t manage it. I think if this review intrigues you, the book is probably still worth investigating.