Panic in a Suitcase: Book summary and reviews of Panic in a Suitcase by Yelena Akhtiorskaya

Panic in a Suitcase

by Yelena Akhtiorskaya

Panic in a Suitcase by Yelena Akhtiorskaya
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  • Published in USA  Jul 2014
    320 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

A dazzling debut novel about a Russian immigrant family living in Brooklyn and their struggle to learn the new rules of the American Dream.

In this account of two decades in the life of an immigrant household, the fall of communism and the rise of globalization are artfully reflected in the experience of a single family. Ironies, subtle and glaring, are revealed: the Nasmertovs left Odessa for Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, with a huge sense of finality, only to find that the divide between the old world and the new is not nearly as clear-cut as they thought. The dissolution of the Soviet Union makes returning just a matter of a plane ticket, and the Russian-owned shops in their adopted neighborhood stock even the most obscure comforts of home.

Pursuing the American Dream once meant giving up everything, but does the dream still work if the past is always within reach? If the Nasmertov parents can afford only to look forward, learning the rules of aspiration, the family's youngest, Frida, can only look back.

In striking, arresting prose loaded with fresh and inventive turns of phrase, Yelena Akhtiorskaya has written the first great novel of Brighton Beach: a searing portrait of hope and ambition, and a profound exploration of the power and limits of language itself, its ability to make connections across cultures and generations.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Marvelous…A touching and darkly funny first novel that is sure to be adored by readers everywhere. Very highly recommended." - Library Journal

"Starred Review. Akhtiorskaya's sideways humor allows rays of genuine emotion to filter through the social and domestic satire." – Kirkus

"The prose is finely crafted, but this is not a tale of relatable people. Instead, Akhtiorskaya excels at humorous, slightly overstated character sketches, making each person uniquely absurd." - Publishers Weekly

"A mercilessly funny debut novel about a Russian family washing up, and out, in America. Yelena Akhtiorskaya seems helplessly bound to deliver the truth, in perfect prose, about our families, wherever they are from. She is a tremendously good new writer." - Ben Marcus, author of Leaving the Sea and The Flame Alphabet

"This is not only a wise, funny novel; it feels like the beginning of a thrilling career." - Chad Harbach, author of The Art of Fielding

"Sentence after sentence, Panic in a Suitcase is infused with humor and poetry, as Akhtiorskaya's characters emerge beautiful and hilarious and splendorous in all their failings... a humbling, astonishing debut." - Aleksandar Hemon

"I think Yelena Akhtiorskaya is a genius. What she manages to do, linguistically and emotionally, in the span of a single sentence, is astonishing." - Keith Gessen, author of All the Sad Young Literary Men

"Yelena Akhtiorskaya creates a beautifully precise and vibrant world populated by touching, funny, unforgettable characters. A true joy to read." - Lara Vapnyar, author of Memoirs of a Muse

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Yelena Akhtiorskaya was born in Odessa in 1985 and raised in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. She holds an MFA from Columbia University. She is the recipient of a Posen Fellowship in Fiction, and her writing has appeared in n+1, The New Republic, Triple Canopy, and elsewhere. She lives in New York City.

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