“The Ashes of Innocence” is a dark and moving memoir told by Alexandra Tesluk. The words flow off the page like they were spoken by an old, beloved aunt. Seen through her eyes, heard with her ears and completely heartfelt, this story is intimate and intensely personal.
Beginning with her first childhood memories, Alexandra uses words from her native language as spice to develop a depth of expression, as a child would, growing with fresh discoveries in vocabulary and context. She is fatherless. Her “moja tato”, her father, has vanished in the chaos of World War 2 and the shadows of the Iron Curtain that followed. Rather than disappearing into Stalin’s Soviet Union, Alexandra’s mother moves the family to Canada to face a life as “displaced persons”.
When her mother remarries, Alexandra gains a violent, alcoholic stepfather. Unable to escape her own sense of displacement, Alexandra is betrayed, abused and abandoned. Her alienation is beautifully rendered in emotional snippets adrift in the timeline of her life. She writes with a desperate foreboding that hems in her experiences, stitching one awful circumstance to another.
Somehow she never lost faith, so from the crackling shell of childhood emerges hope and empowerment. In adulthood, with its own highs and lows, sincerity and authenticity, Alexandra finds a truth – some things lost are lost forever. Innocence is replaced with grim determination and resolve to break the vicious cycle of abuse and loss. Though she never quits searching for the father she lost so long ago, she does find companions who help her. With their help and a guiding belief in the fundamental worth and dignity of all human beings – the long struggle to make a broken little girl whole once again is complete. Alexandra discovers herself and a lifelong, fulfilling love.
“The Ashes of Innocence” is a story that emphasizes the complexity and uniqueness of human beings, as creatures of self-image and choices, finding understanding through their search for meaning. It has a subjective touch that is both delicate and devastating. It may be too intense or subjective for some, but for those who can hear Alexandra speaking through these pages, this is a journey is worth taking.
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