Markings on the Soul

SPOILER ALERT:  Don't read unless you've read 14% of The Summer Garden. 

DISCLAIMER:  I am not trying to be insensitive about what veterans and their families go through after war.  I am just bitching about characters in a book.  Please keep that in mind.

Wow.  I wasn't very amusing in the last post and - due to the subject matter - I have a feeling this one isn't going to be very humorous either.

Shannon and I just got off the phone after a very intense conversation about WHAT is going to happen to Shura and Tania.  I am so sad for them.  They are a mess.  Things have gotten better since the beginning of the book...but they are still so uncomfortable in their own skin.

First off - Shura's tattoos could make me weep.  To be branded like that is so inhuman.  We treat dogs better than that. (Except in Missouri and Pennsylvania.)  COMMA HOWEVER - Tatiana needs to STOP CRYING and get over it.  What happened to that tough little cookie who went to find her brother?  What happened to that woman who laid on the floor with a tube running from herself to her dying soldier?  It's just ink! If it were me, I'd have spent the first week after reuniting crying and feeling sad for him.  And then I've have said "These are markings - they are not who you are."  As my yoga instructor says "We are not what we're going through...we are not the mistakes we've made."  How unbelievably true. 

This might sound trite - but I think it would help - even just a little - if Tania complimented Shura on his body once in a while.  Tell him how good he looks now that he's gained the weight back.  Tell him he's a big, strong man and she loves the feel of him.  C'mon...he's a man.  They live for that shit.  He just wants to feel good about himself; make him feel good about himself.

As for Shura - where do I begin?  He's mean.  And I get it - he's been hardened and beaten and broken down.  He's beautifully damaged as my cousin Jenn D (who lurks over at MOP chat) would say.  But, um, Alex?  While you're bitching about Tania crying and sitting on dirt piles next to hospital construction, you might want to remember that SHE has been through plenty, too.  While you're bringing up pulling her dead mother to the cemetery, you might want to remember that she lost every member of her family in a 3 week timespan...and maybe cut her some slack.  And I know you brought it up for good reasons (whether you know or not) and that you were trying to get her to face her own demons.  But for god's sake - start realizing that she's beautifully damaged too.  Stop flipping her over and start looking her in the eye.  And for god's sake, let her cry.  That's all.  Spend one night letting her cry - perhaps crying with her - and telling her it's OK that she's crying. Then maybe - just maybe - she'll get over it and stop crying every damned day of your life.  Because she knows you understand. 

Possibly the most powerful point so far is that Alexander couldn't be American in the Soviet Union - and he can't be Soviet in America.  Oh my god - what a horrendous position to be in.  I am sick for him.

Don't get me wrong - I think they've been doing a tremendous job of trying to relate to one another - with no help at all.  In this age of therapy, I just want to say "go get a support group or some counseling and all will be well" - but obviously they didn't do those things back then.  So all Tania and Shura have to go on is their communication with each other...and luckily, we're starting to see some of this.

And speaking of communication with each other, Miss Tatia, you'd better STOP THE LYING and tell your husband that the government is looking for him.  At the risk of sounding cliche, you have to be up front and honest about everything - not just the things you feel like talking about.  And ooooh boy...Shura is go' flip the heck OUT when he finds out.  Mmmm hmmm.  I don't even want to think about what he's going to do. 

A few more things: 

- Are we ever going to find out where Shura was for three days?  I guess maybe it doesn't matter?  He just went away for a while...which I'm sure many veterans are known to do.  But I'd like to know.

- I am bummed we didn't get to experience Alexander's introduction to Anthony.  Again - I guess it doesn't matter?  But I'd have liked to have "seen it".

- Anthony called Shura "Daddy" and I felt validated.

- I still think a little consistency and routine would help.  I have lived in my house for 17 years and even though I need window treatments in my family room and my upstairs bathroom is less than stylish, it's my home.  I am comforted here.  I think they'd find some peace if they set down some roots and established some sense of structure in their lives.  There's just something about that old chair or the creaky screen door or the refrigerator that runs a little too loudly.  I dunno.  Home is where the heart is.

- I miss Vikki. 

- When Thelma was making Alex peach cobbler, I had knots in my stomach.  I really thought he might be cheating.  I mean, you could totally see how it would happen.  Your wife won't touch yours scars and cries every time you make love...and all the while you've got women begging you for it and flirting and telling you how hot you are.  I almost couldn't blame him.  Almost.  Thankfully - he wouldn't have time to have an affair.  Tania meets him for lunch every day and he comes right home after work.

OK there is so much more I could say but I really want to go read more.  Again - please don't misunderstand my bitching.  I just have to get it out.  I blog, therefore I am. 


  1. Ugh, the scars and tattoos!! You know, I've only cried a couple of times while reading these books (once in TBH and once in T&A), but it's almost like I'm TOO sad to cry at the other parts. I just get this sick feeling in my gut and I walk around depressed all day. Reading Tania's description of his mutilated body while he played on the beach with Ant did that to me. I felt like I had a boulder in my stomach for most of this morning...

    I also can't believe that she is keeping the secret from him that Sam Gulatto has been looking for him - that's not the kind of secret to keep from your hubby!! Oh, Tatia... :-S

    Oh, and I agree about the crying. I mean, I know that she's been through a TON, but enough with the crying already, 'kay??

    Anyway, I've gotten pretty far ahead of you (in e-reader terms, I'm probably about 48% through), but that's because I just can't put it down! (Hello, first day of summer vacation!) I was afraid that I might be reading too fast, but your blog is helping me remember the details about what I've read. :-)

  2. Carol, you're calling him Shura again. This is a good sign, right? :)

    Well, I guess we know that Paullina doesn't really do the whole puppies and kittens thing, does she? I've never read books before that are so painful, yet so darn good!!

    I felt the same way with Tatiana's crying. It just goes to show you how messed up she is.

    I was mad at Alexander for how mean he was but then when he would finally talk to her, I felt like I knew where he was coming from a whole lot better. Tania mentions how much she wants him to engage in conversation with her but she really is selective in what she wants to hear, and he knows it.

    Cari, you are a really fast reader!! I can't believe you are half finished. I think I need a kindle just so I can figure out where everyone is!!

  3. Hildy, I was where Carol is sometime yesterday morning, and I pretty much read all day and all evening after that. Now I'm at a place where I feel like I can pause for a bit and wait for everyone else to catch up (pg 347). Sooooo much has happened so far, and I want to keep all of it fresh in my mind for when Carol eventually blogs about it.

    (Gonna do some Echo re-kilting while I wait! :-) )

  4. Carol, I think you are hitting on so many important points. This book is so painful, in so many ways. This brought the tragedy of war home to me even harder than the winter in Leningrad, and that's saying a lot. I read this book awhile ago and have not re-read it yet. I just wasn't ready for it. The mental and physical wounds he suffered were so real, I needed a little break.

  5. Yay for calling him Shura again! Poor guy. The point where Tatiana starts avoiding Sam Gulotta's phone calls really starts ticking me off at her. I know she has been through a lot but it is just making a really bad and complicated situation even more convoluted and torturous. Why?? But I love that Paullina sneaks in details like that skank Thelma trying to woo Alexander. Honestly, I haven't even tried to envision how awful the scars must be. To be branded like that!
    The other point that you brought up about how Alexander is so alienated from his own culture is heartbreaking :-(

  6. Well, this comment might be lost to posterity since I am so far behind but will make it here and might make it some time later. I'm not crazy about Tania not telling Alexander Sam and the government are looking for him BUT... I am sick to death of his sulking, pouting, refusing to smile or engage with Tania. Then to be flirting with Thelma? Give me a f-ing break! Maybe she wouldn't cry if he'd do something other than flip her over and get off as fast as he can. Quit making snarky comments about the mayonnaise in her hair and appreciate what she's trying to do for you asshole! There, now I feel better.

  7. Awesome comment about Tania crying because she's always being flipped over, Clay. You made my day. It's so true. Shura is really selfish in a lot of ways. Can't wait to hear your take going forward.

  8. OH.MY.GOSH! I've been wandering around the internet to check if Shura's tattoos were on the second or third book (cause I couldn't remember and I'm lazy as hell to check in my physical books) and then I've found this blog! Gorgeous!
    It may sound sort of childish, but this was probable the most shocking scene I've ever had in a book in my life. I felt violated when they start to describe his tattoos and the scars, was like it was in my own flesh... Brazil is THAT behind regarding the book release (only the first part of the first book has been published!) but all my friends are reading it in english, spanish or some internet translations. As they are now heading to Tatiana & Alexander, I feel their pain! :'(
    I'm in love with your blog! Really.. mesmerizing!! I want to read all your entries about every tiny little piece you passed in each page! Congratulations!

    1. Thank you SO MUCH Vivika!!! That is so sweet! I love the series and had to discuss while I was reading. Sometimes you can't find someone to talk to on any given it helps me to blog! :)

      Have you been to It's full of all kinds of info about the books (and the upcoming film!!) :)