A Woman's Voice

Book Reviews ~ Anya’s Story

Julia Gousseva
Anya’s Story by Author Julia Gousseva

Talented Author Julia Gousseva has done it again! She has penned another captivating novel for both the young and older reading audience. It is chockfull of a combination of Russian history and romance which is bound to capture the interest of the most discerning readers who enjoy this genre.

Best friends, Anya and Katia are finishing up their last year of high school in Moscow and are enjoying their time together before their new life commences as college students. Anya’s boyfriend Victor, is off to navy military school in Leningrad to fulfill his dream of working on a submarine. As he embarks on this career choice, Anya already misses him as his arduous training will occupy him for five years. The first two years are the most vigorous and they will not be able to fulfill their dream of marrying and spending the rest of their lives together as planned, at least not for some time in the near future.

On the home front, Anya’s parents decide to entertain some old friends that they haven’t seen for years. They come over to enjoy a meal and bring their now, twenty-one year old son with them. Yuri, is also a trainee at the military academy in Leningrad. However, due to his more senior status, when Anya and Katia go to Victor’s oath taking ceremony, it is Yuri who has the time to show them the sights.

Anya….the protagonist in this descriptive and charming novel is forced to face great disappointment and what she considers to be betrayal from Victor, the love of her life. In her innocence and naivety, she is extremely hurt by what appears to be Victor’s duplicity and finds much solace and comfort in the open arms of Yuri. They share a warm friendship before Yuri unexpectantly proposes to the much surprised and somewhat confused Anya. She sees no reason to refuse and accepts his proposal. They marry a few short months later. After graduation, Yuri is posted at a northern military base, Vidayevo in Murmansk, where Anya discovers the friendship of a lovely couple from Georgia.

When Yuri gets his first assignment…a three month stint on the submarine K-626, Anya continues with her correspondence courses. When she returns to Moscow to write her exams, she contacts her dear friend Katia and has the opportunity to share a fun-filled time with her, her husband Evgeni, and some of their old high school friends. Unbeknownst to Anya, Victor arrives with one of his naval academy friends, Fyodor. When Fyodor and Anya have a few moments alone, he inadvertently shares a story with her about Victor and Yuri that has lasting and irreversible ramifications…

I absolutely loved this fictional novel. Author Julia Gousseva’s writing style is wonderfully refreshing….no sexually explicit scenes….no cursing…just great old-fashioned story telling….a gifted raconteur at her best. She adeptly pens a realistic story that reaches out from the written page and grabs at the heartstrings in an indescribable and heart wrenching way. I enjoyed every word of this novel and I could literally not put it down. I especially love this quote from the book and feel it needs to be shared. It’s about the special bell that Anya kept as a memento of her grandmother’s words…“Bells keep our souls alive, revive us, and remind us that life always moves forward”. Now Anya, at such a young age and with all her past trials and tribulations, must heed this sage advice.

Inspirational Author & Book Reviewer ~ Dolores Ayotte


Book Reviews ~ I’m Not Perfect And It’s Okay

“I’m Not Perfect and It’s Okay” by Dolores Ayotte feels like an intimate conversation with a wise friend over a cup of tea. Her informal style, her kind sense of humor, her practical advice, and a light-hearted attitude to life (despite or, perhaps, because of her own struggles with depression earlier in life) make this book especially appealing.

Unlike many self-help books who promise instant solutions to our complicated problems but never deliver, this book is very realistic. Right in the first chapter, Dolores Ayotte quotes Tolstoy (one of my favorite writers!) and tells the readers that “it is easier to produce ten volumes on philosophical writing than to put one principle in practice.” That point alone made this book and all the advice in it so much more credible to me. There are no easy solutions and, as Dolores writes, “it takes a lifetime to master the art of living wisely, and it must be learned one step at a time.”

What follows in the thirteen chapters, the baker’s dozen, are just that: specific steps we can all take to improve our lives. Some of my favorite suggestions are these ones:

1. “Learn to love yourself as you are.” – The reason this advice is especially appealing to me because I work with a lot of college-age and adult students who seem to never have learned that principle, and who tend to be overly critical of themselves. While I am not an advocate of praise for the sake of praise (and neither is Dolores Ayotte, not at all!), accepting ourselves for who we are is the only way to move forward in life and to succeed.

2. “Take time to listen to the simple genius and the gentle philosopher that lives within you.” – In this chapter, like in many others, Dolores uses personal stories to illustrate her advice. I believe that stories are one of the best ways for us to learn from someone else’s experience because they allow us to vicariously experience life events. The story that spoke to me in this chapter is that about a teacher who decided to use the theme of simplicity for a school celebration and forego all decorations, choosing instead to focus on human connections and the celebration of the moment. What a wise idea. I’ve seen too many of my friends ruin their wedding day, family Christmas celebrations, or other important events because their napkins did not match the flowers or the color of the walls did not go with the wrapping paper. If only they had followed this simplicity principle and focused on the meaning of the occasion, they would have been much more content and much happier, enjoying the moment, instead of worrying about irrelevant details.

As I write this review, I’m realizing that I enjoyed all the advice so much that I may end up listing all the points here as my favorite, and that would spoil the experience for other readers. So, instead, I will comment on something else. This book is written from a strong Christian perspective but it is written from the heart and it is not intended only for the readers of the same faith. It is not judgmental and not dogmatic. No matter what your faith is, you will enjoy this book and benefit from it. I know I did. On a more personal note to Dolores: that turkey stuffing experience was hilarious and eerily familiar, but I’m not going to explain why right here to avoid embarrassing a certain member of my own family. Thank you for this wonderful book!

By Author Julia Gousseva

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