Author(s): Vanessa Manko
Austin Voronkov is many things: an engineer, an inventor and an immigrant from Russia to Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he gets a job at a rifle factory in 1913. At the house where he rents a room, he falls in love with 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, retreating with his new bride to his home in Russia, where he and his young family become embroiled in the Civil War and must flee once again, 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.
'A brilliant debut. I commend it to you all.' -- Salman Rushdie 'Vanessa Manko is a voice for the years to come.' -- Colum McCann 'A beautiful, bewitching and profound novel.' -- Francisco Goldman 'An achingly immediate, sensuous and psychologically acute novel about a man whose life has been suspended by the madness of American politics.' -- Siri Hustvedt 'Vanessa Manko's fantastically ambitious and rewarding novel, The Invention of Exile, lovingly and carefully details the terrible but wondrous twinning of one man's fate with Russian, Mexican and American history.' -- Rivka Galchen
Vanessa Manko earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Hunter College where she received a Hertog Fellowship. She earned a BA in English Literature from the University of Connecticut and an MA from the New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.