A Terrible Country
January 9, 2019 10:42 AM - by Keith Gessen - Subscribe

When Andrei Kaplan's older brother Dima insists that Andrei return to Moscow to care for their ailing grandmother, Andrei must take stock of his life in New York. His girlfriend has stopped returning his text messages. His dissertation adviser is dubious about his job prospects. It's the summer of 2008, and his bank account is running dangerously low. Perhaps a few months in Moscow are just what he needs.

Marcel Theroux: "If the last two bizarre years have taught us anything, it’s that Russia is never irrelevant."

Francine Prose: "...a Russian novel that only an American could have written."
posted by tofu_crouton (1 comment total)
 
My first impression of this book was that it's zippy. By the end of chapter 1, he's in Moscow. By the end of chapter 2, he's discovered that his grandma has dementia and he has no wifi. These zippy chapters add up into a travelogue, reading almost like a friend's blogs or email updates. Based on Goodread reviews, a lot of readers found this part a slog on the way to the "real plot" that takes up the second half of the book. I personally enjoyed it, finding it refreshing after some of the other things I've been reading lately.

The second half of the book on the other hand... at first, things seemed to be looking up. Andrei was finally taking the advice I had been mentally shouting at him all along! That was my mistake, though, I was thinking of him as a character who could control his own fate, but instead a metaphor. I found his actions at the very end to be out of character for who he had become, but they were necessary for the plot to circle around the way Gessen required to make his plot. Alas.
posted by tofu_crouton at 10:52 AM on January 9


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