The Foreign Service Journal, April 2022

68 APRIL 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL A Great Adventure in Service Lessons from the Edge: A Memoir Marie Yovanovitch, Mariner Books, 2022, $30/paperback, e-book available, 376 pages. Reviewed by Eric Rubin Most Journal readers will recognize Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch’s name. Many knew her and worked with her during her 33-year Foreign Service career. To those who did, she stands out as a superb and talented ambassador and Foreign Service professional, and also a collaborative, creative and sup- portive presence at every post and in every bureau to which she was assigned. Those who did not work with Ambas- sador (ret.) Yovanovitch may know her from the painful, jarring events of the first impeachment process against former President Donald Trump, in which she figured as a witness and—in the context of what really became the diplomatic equivalent of a Hollywood thriller—a central player in the televised drama that unfolded. In this moving and illuminating memoir, Yovanovitch tells the story of her parents’ escape fromNazi and Soviet totalitarianism in the wake of World War II, first to Canada and then—when her father got an offer to teach at a prestigious New England prep school—to the United States. Her story is that of an immigrant to this country, the daughter of refugees from war and dictatorship, who sought to repay this country’s generosity with service and a deep sense of patriotism. The book is serious in many ways, given her family’s history, the obstacles she encountered as a young woman in the Foreign Service of the 1980s, and the difficult postings and political head- winds she encountered along the way. But Yovanovitch presents it as a great adventure, one filled with surprises and, ultimately, fun and success, as well as trouble and drama. The book stands out in the vividness of its writing, the expert weaving of various strands of the author’s life into a single compelling narrative, and the meaning it has for all who have devoted their lives to public service abroad and at home. This is the tale of a career and a life devoted to values: American values of the best kind, as well as universal values. Yovanovitch pulls some punches in telling her story, changing some names to protect the guilty as well as the innocent, and refraining frommaking sweeping judgments about colleagues who were also caught up in the impeachment drama. She makes clear, though, that the going was not always easy for her, as a woman, an immigrant with an unusual name, and as someone who was unwilling to cut corners and bypass laws and rules to achieve objectives. Yovanovitch captures the sights, sounds, smells and context of her overseas postings with flair and skill—fromher first tour inMogadishu, where she was treated by her supervisors as a ditzy young woman when she was anything but that; to the priceless image of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, making a bawdy joke to her in earshot of the Queen in a receiving line at BuckinghamPalace; to the wrenching challenges fromboth American colleagues and the Soviet and post-Soviet realities she confronted inMoscow. Her three ambassadorships—Kyr- gyzstan, Armenia and Ukraine—were all in truly difficult postings in the former Soviet Union, where she defended and protected her staff while insisting that U.S. diplomatic work had to be informed by who we are as Americans. Six years in Kyiv made her a real expert on Ukraine and its problems and possibilities, something that at the end of the day came to be more of a problem than an advantage withWash- ington. This is not a morality tale. It is not full of preaching and lecturing on what is right and what is wrong, and it is not divorced from the practical realities of diplomacy and our country’s essential national inter- ests and objectives. Yovanovitch is a pragmatist at heart, and she has seen enough to know that the pursuit of perfection is ultimately an obstacle to true progress. But she does make clear her belief that there are moral and ethical lines that must be respected if we are to be true to who we are as people and as a nation. At the end of the book, the reader is left with a clear set of messages: Our country is either about its core values or nothing at all. Choices we make as individuals matter, BOOKS The book stands out in the vividness of its writing and the meaning it has for all who have devoted their lives to public service abroad and at home.