Innocence rounds the bend to experience in these beautifully shaped stories of Moscow and Brooklyn, which take up the worldview of the young and overlooked. The stunning Second World War story that opens the book is a masterpiece of ambivalenceabout the simultaneous generosity and hypocrisy of Galina, a gentile Russian woman who offers safe harbor to a Jewish friend and her daughter during the German occupation. In "Love LessonsMondays, 9 A.M.," a young math teacher is assigned to teach a girls' sex education class, even though she herself is still awaiting her first kiss. And in "Mistress," a boy newly arrived in this country bears witness to the intimate details of his grandparents' new and diverging lives: his grandmother's doctors' appointments, where he is charged with translating her myriad complaints into English, and his grandfather's clandestine courtship of another woman.
Adept at both snapshots and long exposures, Lara Vapnyar, herself a recent immigrant, writes of life's adventures and possibilities, its disappointments and unexpected turns, with delicate humor, brilliant timing, and striking emotional honesty. She is a writer to relish and to watch.
Simple stories, told well combine to form a stunning debut by Lara Vapnyar. Her stories become even more impressive when one learns that she did not start to learn English until she emigrated from Russia to New York in 1994 - a mere decade ago.
The New York Times Book Review - Boris Fishman
Vapnyar ...draws an indelible portrait of the land she left behind...Here is the Soviet Union as only its citizens knew it -- a junkyard of truncated aspirations, moral degradation, despair and inexplicable resilience, a place at once labyrinthine and explicit, dysfunctional and yet determined to survive.
Booklist - Donna Seaman
Writing with rinsed-clean lucidity and keen receptivity to the ridiculous and the sublime, Vapnyar portrays resilient individuals who counter loss and displacement with a covert faith in romance.
Whether set in Vapnyar's native Russia or in her adopted New York, the six understated stories in this debut collection are beautifully crafted and unswerving in their exploration of human frailty.
From post-glasnost Russia, where drab, cold, cinder-block homes seldom evoke anything beyond the color gray, by way of an immigrant's New York, where no one has the heart to throw away beat-up samovars and abandoned meat grinders, has sprung a fresh, new, sprightly voice—a voice that is at once that of an adult who remembers childhood far too keenly and that of a child who watches the antic goings-on of adult sexuality with the baffled silence of the wise.
Lara Vapnyar is Jane Austen with a Russian soul. The blend of coolness and pathos in these perfect stories is uncanny.
A remarkable collection . . . Eerie in its simplicity, stunning in its scope. Through her tender, insightful writing, Vapnyar's characters, battered by history and each other, emerge from the long Soviet night oddly radiant and whole.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Olga Roninson A new voice I have been waitng for a writer to come and give voice to the mass emigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union for more than 20 years- and here it is! Like Lara, I grew up in Moscow, in a Jewish fmaily, which belonged to the intelligentsia.... Read More
Rated of 5
by alla gershburg Exceptional! Dear Lara, my only regret about the book is that it is too short! Please write more.
Rated of 5
by panch goldstein
Poorly written balderdash
In an alternate history, a radical group overthrew Churchill and made peace with Hitler. Now, eight years later at a country retreat, one of the group is murdered; and suspicion falls on the Jewish husband of one of their adult children.
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