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Extended Audio Sample The Invention of Exile, by Vanessa Manko Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Vanessa Manko Narrator: Kevin Orton Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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In 1913, Austin Voronkov is many things. He is an engineer, an inventor, and an immigrant from Russia to Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he gets a job at a rifle factory. At the house where he rents a room, he falls in love with a woman named Julia, who becomes his wife and the mother of his three children. When Austin is wrongly accused of attending anarchist gatherings, his limited grasp of English condemns him to his fate as a deportee, where he retreats with his new bride to his home in Russia. He and his young family become embroiled in the Civil War and must flee once again—this time to Mexico.

While Julia and the children are eventually able to return to the US, Austin becomes indefinitely stranded in Mexico City because of the black mark on his record. He keeps a daily correspondence with Julia, as they each exchange their hopes and fears for the future, and as they struggle to remain a family across a distance of two countries. Austin becomes convinced that his engineering designs will be awarded patents, thereby paving the way for the government to approve his return and award his long sought-after American citizenship. At the same time, he becomes convinced that an FBI agent is monitoring his every move with the intent of blocking any possible return to the United States. 

Austin and Julia’s struggles build to crisis and heartrending resolution in this dazzling, sweeping debut. The novel is based in part on Vanessa Manko’s family history and the life of a grandfather she never knew. Manko used this history as a jumping off point for the novel, which focuses on borders between the past and present, sanity, and madness, while the very real US-Mexico border looms. The novel also explores how loss reshapes and transforms lives. It is a profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Manko’s debut thrums with longing.”

    Vanity Fair

  • “Breathless…Manko’s prose and pacing are remarkably assured, rapid when traversing oceans and decades, unbearably tense when Voronkov attempts to re-enter America. ‘Paper is stronger than one realizes,’ is a refrain based in part on the author's family history. With these indelible pages, Manko does her ancestors proud.”

    The Independent

  • “A superb study of statelessness…Manko brings plenty of energy to this tale…Manko is a tremendous stylist, using clipped, simple sentences to capture Austin’s mindset as his confidence in escape erodes but never entirely fades; Manko’s shift in perspective toward the end of the book reveals just how much the years of exile have weathered him. She deeply explores two complicated questions: What is the impact of years of lacking a country? And how much does this lack reside in our imaginations? A top-notch debut, at once sober and lively and provocative.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • Shortlisted for the 2014 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize
  • One of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2014
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