Shaping the USSR
The subject of American innocence up against European experience has been examined in American fiction since Henry James imagined Daisy Miller sneaking into the Roman Colosseum. Sana Krasikov digs into the topic from a new and surprising angle in a thoroughly researched and deeply felt historical novel, The Patriots, which follows the consequences of an idealistic young American’s flight to the Soviet Union.
For Florence Fein, the opportunities and promise of the Soviet Union beat out anything that slow-moving Brooklyn has to offer. After moving to Russia in 1934, Florence throws herself wholeheartedly into the creation of the USSR, remaining loyal to her new homeland even after her American passport is confiscated. Her story is punctuated by the first-person voice of her adult son, Julian, in Russia on business 40 years later and eager to quell rumours that his mother informed on friends and co-workers to stay alive.
Krasikov’s award-winning story collection, One More Year, was about compromised choices amid the social and economic flux of political change. The Patriots draws on similar themes, despite its epic scope. Krasikov skillfully moves between voices and decades, never neglecting the moral difficulties of life under a totalitarian regime. There is a compassion here as well as surprising humor, but most of all, a keen awareness of how people strive to be good in dire circumstances. The Patriots is an ambitious, unsentimental and astonishingly masterful first novel with a singular portrayal of living by conviction, no matter the cost.