“[An] impressive first novel.” –The New York Times

“Rich in history and far-reaching in scope… [a] wonderful first novel.” —The Boston Globe

“Wistful, perceptive… A poignant tale of an immigrant’s loss and longing.” —Christian Science Monitor

“[An] assured debut…Manko paints a complicated and richly human portrait of the specific loss and separation that borders impose — a timeless subject that resonates with particular relevance in the contemporary moment.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“A superb study of statelessness…Manko brings plenty of energy to this tale…Manko is a tremendous stylist, using clipped, simple sentences to capture Austin’s mindset as his confidence in escape erodes but never entirely fades; Manko’s shift in perspective toward the end of the book reveals just how much the years of exile have weathered him. She deeply explores two complicated questions: What is the impact of years of lacking a country? And how much does this lack reside in our imaginations? A top-notch debut, at once sober and lively and provocative.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review) 

“The summer’s surest candidate for lit-hit crossover.” –New York Magazine

“Manko’s debut thrums with longing.” —Vanity Fair

“An incident from her own family history inspired Manko’s fine fiction debut. …The beating heart of Manko’s story is Austin’s determination to be reunited with his family.” —Publisher’s Weekly

“Manko’s debut is a potent examination of the costs of pride and fear as well as the redemptive power of familial bonds.”  Booklist

“Manko’s prose and pacing are remarkably assured, rapid when traversing oceans and decades, unbearably tense when Voronkov attempts to re-enter America. … With these indelible pages, Manko does her ancestors proud.”  The Independent (UK review)

“Manko…writes beautifully about the pain of exile and longing for home” –The Times (UK review)


“Vanessa Manko’s beautifully written and deeply affecting first novel is the story of a man stranded by history in a strange land, torn away by politics and paranoia from the people he loves, exiled and trapped behind an invisible frontier he dares not cross. Manko ranges expertly between Russia, the USA and Mexico to weave her absorbing tale of emigration, deportation, desperation, paranoia, and finally, improbably, love. The novel reminds one, at times, of Kafka, Ondaatje, and even, in its powerful evocation of marooned isolation, Robinson Crusoe. A brilliant debut.” —Salman Rushdie, author of  Midnight’s Children and Joseph Anton

“Vanessa Manko is a voice for the years to come. Her first novel, The Invention of Exile, is an ambitious tale of a Russian émigré in Mexico City. It is an unflinching portrait of how our lives are structured around the complications of geography, beauty and chance, and, at its core, it is a story about those who live in the double shadows of home and history.” —Colum McCann, author of Transatlantic and Let the Great World Spin

“Only writing like Vanessa Manko’s, so finely tuned to subtle and nearly inexpressible emotions, to the whispers of deepest loneliness, to the inner-life of a man cut-off from family and country by the capricious machinery of politics and prejudice, can draw such a secret, marginal, puzzling life out of the shadows, and give it the vivid force and poetry of a universal myth. The novel’s depiction of Austin Voronkov is so intimate and moving that I felt, as I read, that I was living his desperate life myself.  The Invention of Exile is a beautiful, bewitching and profound novel.” —Francisco Goldman, author of The Long Night of the White Chickens and Say Her Name

The Invention of Exile is an achingly immediate, sensuous, and psychologically acute novel about a man whose life has been suspended by the madness of American politics. The book moves deftly between past and present and from one consciousness to another to create a narrative of high emotional tension that turns on the fate of its exiled central character, the Russian born “Austin.” Manko’s tender, compassionate, and wise portrait of this man, who waits and waits and waits to return to the life he was meant to live, continues to reverberate inside me. I suspect I will carry him around with me for years to come.” —Siri Hustvedt, author of What I Loved and The Blazing World

“Vanessa Manko’s fantastically ambitious and rewarding novel, The Invention of Exile, lovingly and carefully details the terrible but wondrous twining of one man’s fate with Russian, Mexican and American history.” –Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances and American Innovations: Stories