Tatyana Tolstaya, a relative of Leo Tolstoy, is known as one of Russia’s great modern authors. Her first English-translated book in 20 years doesn’t disappoint. This collection of short stories feels uniquely Russian in its language, but the themes throughout the stories of politics, love, and loss will relate to anyone.
Vica, Vadik, Sergey, and Regina have been friends since their school days in Russia, but life in New York hasn’t proven to be as exciting as they all hoped. While Regina is married to a rich startup owner and Vadik is working as a programmer, Vica and Sergey can’t seem to realize the dreams they had when they first moved to the U.S. as a young married couple. When Sergey comes up with an app idea, “Virtual Grave,” Vica thinks it’s finally the chance for them to get their big break, but the app brings to light many of the friends’ lingering issues.
Super Sad True Love Story
In Gary Shteyngart’s memoir Little Failure, he writes of his childhood move from Russia to the U.S., so it comes as no surprise that the main character of his best-selling novel, Lenny Abramov, is the son of a Russian immigrant. Lenny lives in the near future, when America is crushed by a financial crisis and its Chinese creditors are getting ready to foreclose. When Lenny meets Eunice Park, a Korean American woman, he becomes enamored with her. Could falling in love make up for the dystopia they’re trapped in?
The Russian mail-order bride is a well-known stereotype, but this book features a very different type of bride. Sasha Goldberg’s life in Russia has gone horribly wrong after she loses her father, boyfriend, and her baby. She decides that the U.S. will be the best place for her, but becoming a mail-order bride and moving in with her new fiancé in Phoenix doesn’t prove to be the solution to her problems. Sasha decides to set out to find her long-lost father, and learns more about herself along the way.
This novel grows from the original premise that every woman will inhabit 40 different rooms over the course of her life. For Grushin’s protagonist, this starts in her family’s Moscow apartment. Her story continues as she leaves home for school in the states and eventually finds love and marriage of her own, propelling her through her different rooms, while Grushin explores issues of women’s identity and choice.
Having grown up in a Russian-speaking household, it’s been difficult watching Russia dominate headlines this past year for all the wrong reasons. The land that brought us such great authors as Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky is know more known for its politics than its writing. This week, I’d like to bring the focus to incredible voices coming out of Russia by featuring books penned by modern Russian authors.
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