In Radiant Daughter, award-winning novelist Patricia Grossman follows
a Czech-American family for twenty-seven years, beginning in suburban
Chicago in 1969 and ending in Brooklyn, in seaside “Little Odessa,”
in 1996. Though the novel begins as a traditional assimilation story—
immigrant parents, “native” children, and the conflicts one might expect—
it evolves into a highly particular and harrowing tale surrounding
the descent of Elise Blazek, the family’s brightest star. Radiant Daughter
is also a story of translation—between generations, from the Czech of
Irena and Stepan, to the “American” of the children, and finally to the
Russian that is Elise’s academic specialty.
Radiant Daughter explores all that is human, from the most self-
destructive behavior to the highest forms of commitment and self-
sacrifice. Even at her lowest moments, Irena never loses her fierce
love for the daughter who has traveled so utterly beyond her reach.
For Elise, the future will always be complicated: a precarious balance
between periods of insight, bursts of accomplishment, and the abyss
of her illness.
Reminiscent, on the one hand, of the meticulously constructed
mother-daughter dynamic in Carol Shields’s Unless and, on the other,
of the anarchic real-life experience of Big and Little Edie Beale in Grey
Gardens, Grossman’s moving narrative breaks new ground in exploring
a dangerous turn in the complex bond between a mother and her adult