Max lives with his grandparents in a residential home for refugees in Germany. When his grandmother—a terrifying, stubborn matriarch and a former Russian primadonna—moved them from the Motherland it was in search of a better life. But she is not at all pleased with how things are run in Germany: the doctors and teachers are incompetent, the food is toxic, and the Germans are generally untrustworthy.
His grandmother has been telling Max that he is an incompetent, clueless weakling since he was a child and she’d spend the day sitting in the back of his classroom to be sure he came to no harm. While he may be a dolt in his grandmother’s eyes, Max is bright enough to notice that his stoic and taciturn grandfather has fallen hopelessly in love with their neighbor, Nina. When a child is born to Nina that is the spitting image of Max’s grandfather, things come to a hilarious if dramatic head. Everybody will have to learn to defend themselves from Max’s all-powerful grandmother.
Alina Bronsky writes of family dysfunction and machinations with a droll and biting humor, a tremendous ear for dialog, and a generous heart that is forgiving of human weakness. While Max’s grandmother recalls the outrageously nasty Rosa from Bronsky’s best-selling book, The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine, this is a more tender and moving family portrait. Here the best-selling and internationally renowned author, while never abandoning her trademark and razor-sharp wit, tells a family story through a young boy’s eyes. Max, over the course of the story, will appreciate that people’s questionable behaviour may often be motivated by sadness.