Excerpt from God Lives In St. Petersburg by Tom Bissell, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

God Lives In St. Petersburg

and Other Stories

by Tom Bissell

God Lives In St. Petersburg by Tom Bissell X
God Lives In St. Petersburg by Tom Bissell
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2005, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2006, 224 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

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 one spoke. Graves sighed. "Glad to hear it." He gave his dune-pinned door two small impotent outward pushes, then spent the next few moments staring out the splintery windshield. The air-freshener canister that had been suckered to the windshield lay quietly frothing lilac-scented foam in Graves's lap. The spun-around Corolla now faced Kunduz, the city they had been trying to escape. "I'm glad I'm not a superstitious man," Graves said at last. The driver's hands were still gripped around the steering wheel.

Donk climbed out on the Corolla's open side, cupping his throbbing eye socket and leaning forward, watching his blood patter onto the sand in perfect red globules. He did not have the faintest idea what he had struck his head against until Hassan, wincing and rubbing his shoulder, muscled his way out of the car behind him. Hassan looked at Donk and shrug-smiled, his eyes rimmed with such a fine black line they looked as if they had been Maybellined. His solid belly filled the stretched sack of his maroon cardigan sweater, and his powder-blue shalwar khameez--the billowy national pants of Afghanistan, draped front and back with a flap of cloth that resembled an untied apron--were splattered with Donk's blood. The whole effect gave Hassan an emergency-room air. Donk did not return Hassan's smile. The night before, in Kunduz, after having a bite of Spam and stale Brie in the rented compound of an Agence France Presse correspondent, Donk and Graves found their hotel room had been robbed. Graves had lost many personal items, a few hundred dollars, and his laptop, while Donk had parted with virtually all of his photographic equipment, including an irreplaceably good wide-lens he had purchased in London on the way over. Hassan, charged with watching the room while they were out, claimed to have abandoned his sentry duties only once, for five minutes, to go the bathroom. He had been greatly depressed since the robbery. Donk was fairly certain Hassan had robbed them.

Donk fastened around his head the white scarf he had picked up in Kunduz's bazaar. Afghan men tended to wear their scarves atop their heads in vaguely muffin-shaped bundles or around their necks with aviator flair. Afghanistan's troublous Arab guests, on the other hand, were said to tie the scarves around their skulls with baldness--mimicking tightness, the hem just millimeters above their eyes while the scarf's tasseled remainder trailed down their spines. This was called terrorist style, and Donk adopted it now. It was the only way he could think to keep blood from his eyes. He also sort of liked how it looked.

"Hassan," Graves snapped, as he climbed out of the Corolla. It was an order, and Graves--a tall thin Brit with an illusionless, razor-burned face--had a voice seemingly engineered to give orders. He had thick brown hair and the ruined teeth of a man who had spent a large amount of time in the unfluoridated parts of the world. His hands were as filthy as the long sleeves of his white thermal underwear top, though his big fingernails seemed as white as shells. Graves made his way to the truck, twenty yards down the road and askew on its three remaining wheels. He glanced down at the tire, innocently at rest in the middle of the highway, that had shattered the Corolla's windshield. Donk noted that Graves looked as stately as was imaginable for a sick man wearing one of those silly war-reporter khaki vests and red Chuck Taylor All-Stars. Hassan rushed to catch up to him, as Graves had not waited.

Excerpted from God Lives in St. Petersburg by Tom Bissell, pages 3 to 12. From the short story titled 'Death Defier'. Copyright © 2005 by Tom Bissell. Excerpted by permission of Pantheon, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $39 for 12 months or $12 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free

Discover books that
entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Women of Chateau Lafayette
    The Women of Chateau Lafayette
    by Stephanie Dray
    The Women of Chateau Lafayette, Stephanie Dray's latest work of historical fiction, revolves around ...
  • Book Jacket: Windhall
    Windhall
    by Ava Barry
    Ava Barry's debut mystery novel Windhall is centered around the salacious murder of a starlet named ...
  • Book Jacket: Libertie
    Libertie
    by Kaitlyn Greenidge
    Kaitlyn Greenidge burst onto the literary scene in 2016 with her award-winning novel, We Love You, ...
  • Book Jacket
    Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982
    by Cho Nam-joo, Jamie Chang
    'Kim Jiyoung is thirty-three years old, thirty-four Korean age. She got married three years ago and ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Widow Queen
    by Elzbieta Cherezinska

    The epic story of an 11th century Polish queen whose life and name were all but forgotten until now.

    Reader Reviews
  • Book Jacket

    Raft of Stars
    by Andrew J. Graff

    A timeless story of loss, hope, and adventure set against the vividly rendered landscape of the Upper Midwest.

    Reader Reviews
Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Mountains Sing
by Nguyen Phan Que Mai
Winner of the 2020 BookBrowse Debut Novel Award: A multi-generational tale set in Viet Nam.
Win This Book!
Win The Beauty of Your Face

A New York Times Notable Book of 2020

"Stunning.… A timely family saga with faith and forgiveness at its core."
Marie Claire

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

It's N S O M N

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.