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Moonlight in Odessa

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  751 Ratings  ·  203 Reviews
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian meets Desperate Housewives in this exploration of the booming business of Russian e-mail-order brides, an industry where love and marriage collide with sex and commerce.

Odessa, Ukraine, is the humor capital of the former Soviet Union, but in an upside-down world where waiters earn more than doctors and Odessans depend on the Mafia
Kindle Edition
Published (first published January 1st 2009)
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Jul 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I could not put this book down! Moonlight in Odessa is about a woman from Odessa, Ukraine, who is slowly seduced by the American dream when she starts working at a foreign shipping firm. Daria loves English and longs to escape the hardships of life in her country. She applies for jobs in Western countries but is turned down because she does not having working papers.

When she begins moonlighting at a matchmaking agency, she meets American men and wonders if this is a way to get to America. When D
Sep 28, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Daria is a young woman living an oppressive life in Ukraine, where the economy is so poor that most people struggle to survive. Though she has a stable and well paying job as a secretary, her future seems uncertain; she worries that her boss, Mr. Harmon, will fire her after she refuses his sexual advances. In order to keep him at bay, she decides to set him up with a long-time friend, who immediately latches onto the man and then strangely turns on Daria. In fear for her job, Daria begins to moo ...more
Nov 30, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-away
Most of Janet Skeslien Charles’ debut, Moonlighting in Odessa is extremely well-written and substantially believable. Daria, the main character defies overwhelming odds in post-perestroika Ukraine, and with disciplined forethought, she not only achieves her goals, but also develops into a successful exception to what most of her peers seek, but never achieve. When her questioning relentless mind jumps into overdrive, her enchanting perception of the “American Dream” casts a meandering pale over ...more
Jul 06, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Lackluster novel that started out strong but faded fast

I really wanted to like this book which has such an interesting premise and started out strong. Daria is a great character, and I felt truly invested in her struggles and her life in Odessa. The descriptions of trying to work in the post-Soviet era Ukraine are hysterical. The entire mail-order bride business is both amusing and tragic, and is very well depicted in this novel.

Unfortunately, once Daria makes a choice about how to live her life
Kristine James
Jun 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must read by by a new author - Ms. Skeslien Charles' book is both funny and sad. The struggles of single parenthood, trying to find "the right person", living in the Ukraine, adjusting to a new life all rolled into one and yet still funny. I loved learning about life in a different country - i felt like i was there. The love of family. A great first novel - i can't wait for more!!
Kristine Heitkemper James
Jul 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an intriguing debut novel about mail order brides from the Ukraine. Why would an educated and highly intelligent woman from a beautiful, historic seaside city choose to give up everything for a stranger she barely knows? The story is written from the perspective of one such woman, but reveals much more. It is about family and business relationships, financial security, lonliness, language and cultural stereotypes and even Ukrainian mobsters who (along with their Russian counterparts) are ...more
I loved the first half of this book. The setting and plot were intriguing, and Daria was such a strong, interesting character. I'd like to steal her grandmother, too! The second half... petered out, in my opinion. It was less engaging, though there were still good moments. In the end it all works out for the best. So despite the lull in the middle, I did really enjoy this book and would recommend it as a quick read. Also for anyone thinking of visiting the Ukraine! (Thanks FirstReads for the adv ...more
What I found was a book that was indeed truly delightful, but that also brought a realistic, humanizing face to modern day marriages that are not for love.

The book lingers in Odessa much longer than I was initially expecting, and I’m so glad it did. This gives a firm basis for who Daria is before she comes to America and really puts the reader in her shoes. The author clearly has a love for and strong knowledge of Odessa, Ukrainian culture, and the Russian language. Within just a few pages, it i
Aug 15, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
My overall impression of this book is postitive. I feel like the writing was strong, good use of detail and atmosphere. My conflict about a more postive review is due to plot. I found the first half of the book really enjoyable. I loved Daria and her grandmother. Really strong, likable characters. I felt less enamoured with who Daria became and how the plot and writing reflected that. I think what I really liked about the first half was the palatable mix of dark and humour. It was candid writing ...more
Nov 19, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very talented writer. Had I not read it in an interview, I wouldn’t have known that Janet Skeslien Charles wasn’t born in the former Soviet Union. She gives her main character, Daria, a fantastically believable voice.
The story is about mail order brides and about the perils of those unions, about new capitalist ventures and new post communist life in Ukraine. It’s set in Odessa and then in the United States. Written in a witty and entertaining style, it’s a quick, pleasant, and educational re
Dec 08, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Informative read with an exotic locale. I'd recommend it to patrons who like rather serious chick lit. You'll want the best for Daria, the engaging main character.
JG (The Introverted Reader)
Daria just graduated with a degree in engineering, but in Odessa, Ukraine, jobs are almost impossible to find. She eventually starts work as a secretary for an Israeli import/export firm and as an interpreter for an email order bride company, Soviet Unions. Good men are hard to find in Odessa too, so Daria finds herself corresponding with a few men, even as some she already knows start to make advances.

Full disclosure: I won this in a GoodReads firstreads giveaway.

Really, this was 3.5 stars for
Mar 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Moonlight in Odessa's main character, Daria, is a very strong character and it was a good idea to have her narrate this otherwise average story. Daria's job occasionally requires her to give guided tours of Odessa to overseas visitors and in many ways that's exactly what the reader is given in the first half of the book. I thoroughly enjoyed the side-salad of interesting cultural information and witty proverbs which she provides.

Sadly this doesn't (and couldn't) extend into the second half of th
Janet Skeslien Charles’ Moonlight In Odessa is addictive, unexpected and a deeply acquired taste — I’ll say that right off the bat. It’s bawdy. A little over-the-top. Funny but also tragic; fascinating, but almost morbidly so. Deeply entrenched in romance, love, sex — and everything in between. It’s about making choices and where those choices lead you.

I started this book on a sunny afternoon, intimidated by its girth, but it wasn’t long before I was hopelessly sucked into Daria’s story and ench
Feb 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Daria is an educated Ukranian in her twenties who lives with her Boba (grandmother) and works for a foreign shipping firm. She tries to see her home city of Odessa through rose-tinted spectacles, but can’t help but see the poverty and inequality that followed the break-up of the Soviet Union. To make ends meet she moonlights at an introduction agency which puts American men and Ukranian women together with a view to marriage.

Though she is a modern woman fighting to survive in a harsh world, anot
Sep 17, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Right from the start, I found Moonlight in Odessa to be a very pleasant read. I don’t always find books that catch me from the start, but I was caught by the characters in this book from the beginning. After only the first few chapters, I found myself following the lead character, Daria, and seeing the world through her eyes. Each character in the book was very well developed so that you could like or dislike them and I found that I had very vivid images of each one in my mind. As the story prog ...more
Aug 07, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Women
Recommended to Monique by: I won it on Goodreads!
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 07, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I really enjoyed this story, really got into it. You know a book is good when you can't figure out why your mood is so strange, so pensive, or even just down, and then you realize it's because you have the main character's plight in your head, and you've absorbed it.

Daria is a beautiful Ukrainian girl -- smart with perfect English. She has a really dense history -- personal, geographical, political, you name it. And she works in a job that pays well, for a boss who's sort of an inept yet aggress
This is a first novel from this author and it reads like a first novel. It's a little choppy at first, but smooths out as it goes on. It's about a Ukrainian woman who deals with foreign men at work and in her social life and eventually realizes her dream to come to the U.S. Having lived in Ukraine and other countries of the Former Soviet Union, I am admittedly sensitive to the cultural comments and comparisons. I don't necessarily disagree with them, but felt sometimes they were awkwardly insert ...more
Oct 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I won this book in the goodreads book giveaway. I ended up liking this book better than I thought I would when I started. At the beginning, it was a pleasant read, but I read it more out of a sense of duty than desire.
But as it went on, I started to feel way more connected to the heroine, and interested in her life and circumstances. The story is well written, in a way that really allows you to understand the motivations behind, not just the main character's decisions/actions, but those of most
Aug 08, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful, charming book. The narrator, Daria, is a very savvy young woman in Ukraine who takes a secretarial job because she can't find work as an engineer. She's smart, she's funny, she's gorgeous, she's proud and warm-hearted and casually ruthless as she struggles to make her way. She loves Odessa. She and her grandmother are happy together in their one-room apartment. But it's dangerous to be so beautiful in an impoverished town. Her boss pursues her and so does the gangster who co ...more
It's a hard knock life in Odessa. Daria struggles to avoid her boss's unwelcome advances, keep the Ukrainian mafia at bay, and look after her Boba. She gets a second job (moonlights, you see) at a place called Soviet Unions, a matchmaking service providing American men the chance to meet and marry women in the Ukraine. Despite seeing the pitfalls in such relationships, she ends up dating one of the men herself, and soon has to decide between the city she loves and the chance at realizing her dre ...more
May 23, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Marieke, Muphyn, Diana, Avra
I'm having a good time with this so far. Since I learn all my culture and history from novels, I'm getting a good dose of Odessa and its character and characters. As an easy target for anything "Russian," this is just my kind of book.
But I like the writing too. It's fresh, humorous, clever/smart (not like the "clever" explained in the book). The story is enlightening. Maybe it's kind of Ukrainian chick-lit? No, it's better than that--so far. I'll say more when I've finished it.

Okay, I'm finished
May 17, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: armchair-travel
I'm looking forward to reading Moonlight in Odessa by Janet Skeslien Charles. There is an interesting interview with the author at the following website:

December 2009
Getting to know the character of Daria, her family, her dreams, her relationships was enjoyable and insightful. I anticipate the next chapter of the story. More than just the characters though is the setting - it was interesting to read about Odessa and life in the Ukraine. I thoroughly enjo
Sep 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I loved this book so much that when I finished it I longed for more. The story is about Daria, a young woman in Ukraine, who struggles to find love and happiness. She must decide between an older husband in America and a young beau in Odessa. The book highlights the struggles of women in post communism eastern Europe, who must make ends meet while earning almost nothing. In particular, the novel tells the stories of women who chose to become 'mail order brides' as a way out of the poverty, but f ...more
Kasa Cotugno
Jun 24, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To liken this book to Desparate Housewives does it a disservice. Although I love that tv show, the story of Daria and her journey from post Soviet Union Ukraine to the United States is more serious and thoughtful. As there are no sexual harrassment laws protecting female employees from predatory bosses, Daria must use her wits to maintain her dignity. I felt that she was the most realized of the book's characters, and that others she interacted with were not as clearly thought out or presented. ...more
Sep 05, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Muphyn by: Daisy
I really, really enjoyed it for the most part but, unfortunately, the last third really started dragging and I couldn't wait for (view spoiler), that'd have been so cool. :)

The part set in Odessa was fascinating and hilarious, the way Daria commented on her life there. It's dry and witty, yet also warm and cosy, especially when Daria talked about her relationship with her grandmother.
Sep 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I won this book on goodreads. I really really loved this book, I don't know if it's because it was written from the perspective of an Ukrainian woman (who it was like to live over there, in Odessa actually, and what it was like to move to the States). Of course, the whole story was not similar to mine in many ways, but it really spoke to me. Although I have to say that some words that the author used in Russian (writing them out in English letters) were misspelled or used incorrectly. Overall, I ...more
Nov 06, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, romance
My mom enjoyed this book greatly, I guess because it reminded her of her own story. She was gushing to me about it, so that I told her in the end I'll give it a try. :)I'm only a little bit into the book (page 20), and wow, it's soo funny! Mom didn't mention the humor in the book; she was instead commenting on how well the author who isn't from Russia/Ukraine learned our culture in just two years she was here, including how many Russian idioms she used in the book etc. etc.

Recommended to anyone
Sandra Dickens
Aug 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautifully written book about a very strong woman in a world where strong woman are not appreciated, and her struggle to be true to herself and to reach what might seem to be an unreachable goal - happiness on her own terms. I was not sure if I would like this book, as I hate "girly" stories. But, this is not really a "girly" story. It is about overcoming obstacles and compromise. It gives a real insight into the liberated soviet satellites and how people are trying to adjust to a new ...more
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Janet Skeslien Charles has lived in Paris since 1999. She enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family in Montana and South Carolina. She is working on her second novel as well as a collection of essays about life in Paris.

The backdrop of her debut novel Moonlight in Odessa is the booming business of e-mail order brides, an industry where love and marriage meet sex and commerce. Wh
More about Janet Skeslien Charles...

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“Give a man a centimeter and he'll think he's a ruler.” 78 likes
“My job is to scream cockle-doodle-doo. Don't blame me if the sun doesn't rise.” 14 likes
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