This is how it is: author Meir Shalev has taken the threads of family history and woven them into a tale that drapes as easily as a babushka over the head of the family, in this case Grandma Tonia. Every family has a skeleton or two in the closet; Grandma has a sweeper in the bathroom. Or does she? A story doesn't have to have a point -- the story IS the point.
And when your ideal is cleanliness, the value of a vacuum cleaner would be priceless, or so one would think. Like magic the dirt disappears, never to be seen or heard from again. It is a miracle of modern science, as long as we ignore the law of conservation of mass. And then at last the weighty dilemma occurs - who sweeps the sweeper?
Shalev manages the diversity of cultural history and values with sure hands - the story of My Russian Grandmother could happen anywhere, and in any time. In fact, I am sure it has. While not everyone has a Grandma Tonia or an Uncle Yitzhak, we have all had people like them in our lives and in our own families. The idiosyncrasies that make us individuals are the very things we have in common.
An enjoyable read, filled with humorous insight into obsessive-compulsive behavior as well as the Freudian aspects of a manicure, My Russian Grandmother is part James Thurber's My Life and Hard Times, part my own uncle Dave reminiscing about life on the farm in the Depression (if my family had been Jewish and Israel was Minnesota.) If you don't have stories like this in YOUR family, you should make some up.