Sascha Naimann has two dreams: to kill her stepfather and to write a book about her late mother.
You see, her stepfather, Vadim, murdered her mother along with her mother’s boyfriend Harry. The only hitch in her plan? Vadim is in jail, and won’t get out for a good long while.
But Alina Bronsky’s debut novel Broken Glass Park, translated from the German by Timothy Mohr, isn’t a novel about murder.
It’s a novel about loss, pain, recovery, self-discovery, and finding closure. Sascha, of course, doesn’t know that. All she knows is that that abusive asshole killed her mother and left her younger siblings without parents.
Throughout the book, she thinks up ways to kill Vadim, preferably slowly and painfully, while she works her way through high school and takes care of her two younger siblings.
An article in a newspaper about Vadim’s supposed repentance sets Sascha on a rampage. It also sets in motion a series of events that lead Sascha on a journey—but not the one she expected to go on.
Everyone but Sascha can see how profoundly her mother’s death has affected her. She feels no fear and through her bold, often reckless actions, continues to defy the emotionally and physically abusive Vadim.
Her emotional condition deteriorates as the book goes on and she tries her best to numb her pain through sex, drugs, and eventually vandalism.
Bronsky rarely has to tell her reader how Sascha feels or what she thinks. Instead, she uses setting and Sascha’s interactions with other characters to display the girl’s turbulent emotional landscape. Considering the book is written in first person, Bronsky’s feat becomes even more impressive.
The book also avoids the tired bad-ass girl seeks revenge trope, despite opening pages that point that way. Sascha might be more fearless than the average 17-year-old, but she doesn’t have any special powers or training.
Broken Glass Park does read like a translation. Although the language is gripping and sometimes beautiful, it is obvious those words did not come from English. Most of the sentences are very short and quick, as if Sascha means to punch the reader through the page.
The syntax and short sentences along with the lack of chapter breaks should have made the book hard to digest, but I still found myself powering through the novel in three sittings.
I also expected the ending to be haunting, upsetting, or unsatisfactory in some way, but it turned out to be quite the opposite: inspirational, uplifting, and completely satisfying.
Kelly Lynn Thomas is a writer obsessed with storytelling, tea, and Star Wars. Her day job is newspaper editor, but fiction and travel writing are her first loves. Read more at http://kellylynnthomas.com.