Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-11-21
- Reviewer: Staff
Three generations of a Russian-American Jewish family are caught in the turmoil of the Soviet Union and its aftermath in Krasikovs capacious, exhausting novel. In 1933, the headstrong young Brooklynite Florence Fein meets Soviet engineer Sergey Sokolov through her work at Amtorg, the unofficial Soviet trade mission in the U.S. After a summer affair, she follows Sergey back to the Old World, dreaming of a more equitable society; the reality she finds in the city of Magnitogorsk looks more like appalling sanitation... endless hunger... bullying superiors. Journeying on to Moscow, she begins to make a new life with a new lovea fellow expatriate lured by the Soviet promise of the futurebut that life is soon imperiled by Stalins purges, as arrests, interrogations, and executions terrorize the population. By shifting frequently among narrators and time periods, Krasikov suggests that the perils of Russian life are perennial; in 2008, Florences adult son, Julian, now living in the U.S. and working for an oil company, returns to Moscow and finds himself faced not only with pervasive corruption, but with the possibility that his own son, Lenny, may be endangered by the unsavory business deal hes been tasked to execute. Krasikov aims for a cubist take on the Soviet century, touching on orphanages, labor camps, universities, and the theater. The plot lags and the prose is awkward, but readers may discover some interesting details of the time and place through the extensive research Krasikov implements into the story. (Feb.)
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.