By: Talia Carner
Released June 2, 2015
From the author of Jerusalem Maiden comes a mesmerizing, thought-provoking novel that tells the riveting story of an American woman—the daughter of Holocaust survivors—who travels to Russia shortly after the fall of communism, and finds herself embroiled in a perilous mafia conspiracy that could irrevocably destroy her life.
Brooke Fielding, a thirty-eight year old New York investment manager and daughter of Jewish Holocaust survivors, finds her life suddenly upended in late September 1993 when her job is unexpectedly put in jeopardy. Brooke accepts an invitation to join a friend on a mission to Moscow to teach entrepreneurial skills to Russian business women, which will also give her a chance to gain expertise in the new, vast emerging Russian market. Though excited by the opportunity to save her job and be one of the first Americans to visit Russia after the fall of communism, she also wonders what awaits her in the country that persecuted her mother just a generation ago.
Inspired by the women she meets, Brooke becomes committed to helping them investigate the crime that threatens their businesses. But as the uprising of the Russian parliament against President Boris Yeltsin turns Moscow into a volatile war zone, Brooke will find that her involvement comes at a high cost. For in a city where “capitalism” is still a dirty word, where neighbors spy on neighbors and the new economy is in the hands of a few dangerous men, nothing Brooke does goes unnoticed—and a mistake in her past may now compromise her future.
A moving, poignant, and rich novel, Hotel Moscow is an eye-opening portrait of post-communist Russia and a profound exploration of faith, family, and heritage.
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PART 1: Thursday,
September 30, 1993
The plane had emptied by the time Brooke Fielding strode down the ramp tube of the Moscow airport, her Burberry raincoat and overnight case strapped with an elastic cord to a wheeled carrier. In the narrow, windowless Jetway, the two last passengers followed right behind her, men lugging clear plastic bags that sported the Duty Free Shop logo and were stuffed with cigarettes, whiskey, perfumes, and a variety of cheese and sausages.
The significance of the moment billowed in Brooke’s chest: she, an American, was arriving in Russia a mere twenty-one months after the collapse of Communism. Like a pioneer, she’d get a taste of the sights, sounds and flavors of a country few Americans had visited since the days of the Czars. Even though she’d had a sense of “there” through her parents’ Eastern European upbringing, she expected the experience awaiting her in Moscow would be unlike anything she’d ever had before. On Monday, when her company’s new management had ordered her to take her unused vacation days, she’d called her friend Amanda Cheng to let her know that she had become available to join Amanda’s women’s mission. She would use her business skills to help Russian women vault over decades of stagnation.
At the sound of swooshing behind her, Brooke glanced back to see that the far end of the skyway had detached from the airplane and was closing with a soft whine. Brooke hurried along, pushed to a faster pace by the two men at her heels, when a small, triumphant voice inside her burst out. Russia, I’m returning on behalf of all my millions of nameless fellow Jews lost on your soil. You didn’t destroy us, after all. She lifted her head. I’m here.
This was a new Russia, Brooke reminded herself, different from the Russia that had experimented with its people’s lives and minds. This new Russia was fighting for liberty, placing the individual’s right for happiness over the collective’s good, and as it struggled to free itself from bigotry, so should she. The negative, judgmental attitudes merely reflected her mother’s prejudices.
Brooke was nearing the door separating the Jetway from the main terminal when a guard approached it from inside. His eyes hooded with boredom, a machine gun dangling from the strap across his chest, he unfastened a door stopper and swung the door shut, locking it, then turned to leave.
“Hey!” Brooke waved, rushing forward. “Wait!”
But the guard just tossed her a blank look through the glass, and walked away.
“I’m still here!” she called to his retreating back. She banged on the door.
“They have orders.” The younger of the two men at her heels spoke in heavily accented English. He wore a rumpled blue suit with a wrinkled open-collar shirt. The older man shook his head of dandelion-fuzz hair and rested his shopping bags on the floor.
From outside rose the hum of a forklift and the thuds of luggage falling onto a conveyor belt. “Welcome to Russia,” Brooke muttered. She adjusted her watch for the time zone. Seven o’clock in the morning was yesterday in New York. She banged again on the glass door, but could see the empty corridor beyond. Amanda and the other ten women executives recruited for this “Citizen Diplomats” mission must have reached passport control. They would be worried.
The hair falling on Brooke’s cheeks smelled of microwaved airplane food and re-circulated air. She tucked a strand behind her ear and took a deep breath. Eventually, someone would let her out; no one got stuck at an airport terminal forever. She glanced at her companions. The two Russian men stood motionless, as if forbidden to even lean against the wall for support.
Brooke hated losing control, which had been happening all week. Last Friday afternoon she was called to an unscheduled staff meeting at which her investment firm’s CEO cheerfully reported that they had been taken over. His faux optimism only made Brooke wonder how big a golden parachute the new owners must have opened for him. He was no doubt making a soft landing into a pile of several million dollars. She left the meeting in a daze and ran off to the synagogue for the start of Yom Kippur. In observance of the day her parents had never honored, she absented herself from her colleagues’ frantic phone calls until Sunday night.
The uncertainties she and her colleagues pondered on Sunday were sealed Monday when The Wall Street Journal speculated that the takeover would probably result in a bloodbath for the current employees. That afternoon, Brooke and other executives were told to take off two full weeks, a gambit to flush out fraud by keeping the staff away from their accounts so they could be examined unhampered.
Not even allowed to visit the office, Brooke would be absent when she most needed to impress the new management, when her clients would be introduced to new teams she had never met, leaving her out of the loop. Never before had she experienced the insecurity of a job suddenly in jeopardy. Her CEO, her mentor, had betrayed her.
But adding expertise on Russia’s new economy would help her keep her hard-won executive position. Not only did Brooke have the opportunity to help Russian women on this trip, but she could poke her nose into business ventures of this nation untangling itself from a seventy-year time warp. She would return to New York brimming with new ideas and investment opportunities. She might even refresh the Russian language that must be lying dormant in her grey cells; she had heard it often enough in her childhood when her mother and her mother’s friends still spoke it among themselves.
This trip would be a win-win situation, she had decided that Monday night.
On Tuesday, the mission’s Russian host had arranged for Brooke’s visa while she splurged for gifts the group could provide the women they would be counseling. On Wednesday she had boarded the flight, and now, Thursday morning, here she was, stuck in Moscow airport.
The foregoing is excerpted from HOTEL MOSCOW by Talia Carner. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 195 Broadway New York, NY 10007
Traveling around the world has brought Talia Carner, former publisher of Savvy Woman magazine, a business consultant to Fortune 500 companies, and a speaker at international women’s economic forums, to find the stories right within herself. In her new novel, Hotel Moscow, she continues her mission to save and empower women. Carner hit the ground running with her first novel, Puppet Child (The Top 10 Favorite First Novels 2002,) followed by China Doll, (her platform for 2007 U.N. presentation against infanticide,) and Jerusalem Maiden (winner of Forward National Literature Award,) and now shares her passion for social justice and human rights domestically and globally. She explores the individual’s spirit as it clashes with the power of religion, social conformity, or political upheaval. She lives in New York with her husband. Please visit her at www.taliacarner.com.
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