Summary and book reviews of God Lives In St. Petersburg by Tom Bissell

God Lives In St. Petersburg

and Other Stories

By Tom Bissell

God Lives In St. Petersburg
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  • Hardcover: Jan 2005,
    224 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2006,
    224 pages.

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Book Summary

Here are six fictional stories about Americans colliding with a remote and often perilous part of the world:

  • Two journalists, stranded in wartime Afghanistan, are taken in by a warlord who becomes the arbiter of their fates.

  • A female scientist investigating the Aral Sea disaster is drawn into a trap by a former KGB officer.

  • On a hike through Kazakhstan, Jayne and Douglas's marriage unravels when their guide, a veteran of the Soviet-Afghanistan war, takes an unseemly interest in Jayne.

  • The son of an American ambassador addicted to the seamy underside of a Central Asian city finally gets in over his head.

  • In the Pushcart Prize–winning title story, a tortured missionary struggles to reconcile his sexual urges with his faith.

  • A young man just back from a long stint in Kyrgyzstan finds his relationship with his fiancée all but destroyed.

Sometimes hilarious, sometimes tragic, but always eerily affecting, these stories show us deeply foreign lands and peoples through our own eyes. Impressive in both range and emotional acuity, God Lives in St. Petersburg is a stunning fictional debut by a "wildly talented" (Outside) young writer.

Death Defier

Graves had been sick for three days when, on the long straight highway between Mazar and Kunduz, a dark blue truck coming toward them shed its rear wheel in a spray of orange-yellow sparks. The wheel, as though excited by its sudden liberty, bounced twice not very high and once very high and hit their windshield with a damp crack. "Christ!" Donk called out from the backseat. The driver, much too late, wrenched on the steering wheel, and they fishtailed and then spun out into the dunes alongside the road. Against one of the higher sandbanks the Corolla slammed to a dusty halt. Sand as soft and pale as flour poured into the partially opened windows. The shattered but still intact windshield sagged like netting. After a moment Donk touched his forehead, his eyebrow bristles as tender as split stitches. Thin watery blood streaked down his fingers.

From the front passenger seat Graves asked if the other three men--Donk, Hassan, the driver--were all right. No ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

Six stories set in Central Asia, one of them a Pushcart Prize winner, written with deadpan irony and packing quite a punch.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Bissell never flinches as he looks straight into the starved hearts of his characters. In these chilling stories of a region ravaged by war, exile and neglect, desperation drives men and women to do the otherwise unthinkable, and no one is quite forgiven for their transgressions.

Kirkus Reviews

Bissell follows a nonfiction account of his travels in Central Asia (Chasing the Sea, 2003) with this slim but rigorous debut collection of six darkly passionate stories about Americans who have chosen to visit or live in that most difficult part of the world....Graham and Ernest move over, you've got company.

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Beyond the Book

About the author & the Aral Sea: In 2001 Tom Bissell traveled throughout Uzbekistan, spending some time in Muynak. Forty years ago Muynak was a busy fishing port on the edge of the Aral Sea, which was formerly the fourth largest inland sea in the world but now, due to 40 years of Soviet irrigation policy, is mostly polluted desert. He recorded his thoughts and observations in a memoir, Chasing The Sea, published in 2003, which combined the story of his travels with a chronicle of Uzbekistan's culture and history. His second book, God Lives in St Petersburg,...

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