Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Saviour-V teleports into the Sanctuary...

Just thought I'd put up a review or two. Heck, it's a paid review on behalf of, but I'm also trying to see how far I can go with my current skills as a review author.

Saviour-V snaps his fingers, and a nearby wall slides open to reveal a monitor, which flickers to life, displaying the following information:

Book Review.

That, dear friends, explains the kind of review I'm making.

And as for WHAT I'm reviewing, it's "Birth Of An American Family", by Geoffrey Moehl II. According to the URL, its description reads:

"An inspiring true story of the birth of a new American family, as seen through the eyes of their English language tutor. The author is drawn into the lives of a Russian refugee family and discovers that they have as much to teach him as he has to teach them. Mr. Moehl’s inspiring story is especially useful to ESL teachers and those who support refugee families in their adaptation to American life."

Saviour-V grins slightly...

Let's take a look at this story closely.

As per my PDF review copy, offered graciously by the author of this book (and which my younger brother seems to have taken a shine to, from the looks of it), this is the true story of Geoffrey Moehl's efforts to welcome TWO Russian Muslim families into American society, inclusive of the trials and tribulations faced, plus laughter and tears.

Not forgetting one or two grammatical errors, Mr. Moehl, but let's not go there just yet, comrades.

First, the story itself.

Moehl begins this tale on a rather comical note: he waits for 15 minutes before he realizes that he happened to be on the wrong street. Whoop-sy. Familiar picture? Happens to anyone.

He later gets his first taste of Russian hospitality as soon as the families get settled into their new apartment: homemade bread, chocolates, and EXTREMELY HOT soup and tea.

"The soup and the tea were both so hot they were boiling. This was something I have never seen. It was not until later I realized the significance of all the food being extremely hot. In Russia, this had been a necessity as the only safe drinking water available was bottled or boiled."

Talk about a warm reception. Moehl later learns that it is customary for Russians to serve a meal to their guests, regardless of the time. Which is, in fact, almost similar to our customs here in Malaysia.

As the story goes, Anna, Lydia, Peter and Leon (not their real names), the parents of the Russian families, try to fit into American society. S-L-O-W-L-Y. Apart from the obvious language barrier, made even more difficult when their translator moves northward in search of greener pastures, they also struggled to make ends meet, and keep their families going.

A simple example of Moehl's virtue shows itself twice when he helps them with their grocery shopping: he made recommendations on what meat was safe to buy (with a little bit of help from his own wife, that is), and became fiercely protective of his newly-adopted family when the cashier very nearly rejected a check belonging to them.

Later, Anna shows Moehl her own style of courage when she tells her son, "English only, no Russian," when her son tries to explain the usage of a certain device in Russian. As Moehl puts it:

"In my opinion, Anna saying, `English only, no Russian', and completely refusing to use the virtual keyboard shows how determined she is to integrate her family into their new life."

Given that they've fled Russia for America, there's a strong feeling of wanting to belong in their new environment. As most former refugee families will tell you anywhere across the world, the tough part's adapting, but returning back home is most certainly NOT an option. And as such, language issues are but a minor obstacle, albeit a difficult one, in exchange for their new lives.

OK, now that I've whetted your appetite with a few choice pieces from this book, let me give you a few more points to ponder.

Given that this book is quite lengthy, and the fact that it's not arranged in chronological chapters or anything similar, it is a bit difficult to digest this morsel in one sitting; currently, it's my third time through, even with my speed-reading.

Also, you can't really tell how long it took for Anna's and Lydia's families to slowly adapt to life in the US of A. I mean, it is still an ongoing process, as of the time of this writing. However, a few chronological place-markers would've made it easier to get an idea of the time it would take to get used to a new home away from past sorrows.

And there were some mistakes that were likely caused by the word processor; "the Peter, Leon, and Lydia..." in page 11, for instance. They don't really affect the general story much, but given that Moehl's an English teacher, these simple mistakes may seem to affect his credibility by a very slight margin.

On a more positive note, this story tells us a few things:

1. The fact that life still has simple pleasures, such as the families gathering round the dinner table for their feast, and the kids waiting patiently for their parents to finish learning from Moehl before coming to him with their homework.

2. More importantly, that the generosity and sincerity of one person is constantly repaid many times over, even under very humble circumstances, regardless of religion.

The final verdict?

Saviour-V glances at the monitor, which displays several filled stars out of 10...

....8 and a half stars out of 10. Quite commendable.

But don't just take my word for it. Check the "Book Review" URL above to get to, and give this book a read.

The monitor folds back into the hidden panel, and Saviour-V turns to face his audience...

And with that, ladies and gents, I bid you adieu...for now.

Saviour-V bows, and teleports out of the Sanctuary a few moments later...

No comments: