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One More Year: Stories (2008)
by Sana Krasikov
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This collection of short stories deals mostly with Russian immigrant's lives in the U.S. The characters really come alive in all of the stories. Well-written and lead me to be quite empathetic with many of the characters situations.
Krasikov's stories are unpretentiously masterful.
The psychology of endurance, did such a field really exist? Had this woman named it into existence? It seemed ludicrous in a way possible only in this country, spinning your own survival instincts into a new form of expertise, peddling them as though they were something you could teach people. – from The Alternate, page 65 -
A woman moves in with an older man out of necessity, a Russian boy visits his mother in New York and the divide between America and Russia widens, a man mourns a woman he once loved and hopes for a connection with her daughter, a young woman tries to break free of a polygamous marriage, a young wife struggles to leave an abusive marriage, a man learns the truth about his beloved niece, a man turns his back on Wall Street success to return to his native country, a young woman takes an extended visit back to Russia to escape the consequences of a bad decision at work…all of these characters people the eight stories in Sana Krasikov’s award winning collection: One More Year. Krasikov weaves her tales around the central theme of immigration and the struggle to adapt to a new country while clinging to the memories and connections of the past.
In The Repatriates, this struggle is reflected through the eyes of a woman whose husband decides to leave his lucrative job on Wall Street to return to Russia and start a new business. Grisha resists adapting to his life in the United States, while his wife, Lera, wishes only to support her husband’s desires.
Lera would often see her husband off in a corner, rattling his drink and talking with someone about the morbid state of American culture, the absence of any real spirituality here. It was known to happen to such late arrivants – the ones who’d risked nothing, forsaken little, and had not even been required by the Russian government to annul their red passports. – from The Repatriates, page 154 -
When Lera rejoins Grisha back in Russia, there are secrets and betrayals waiting for her and the idealized version of her husband’s Russia brings only disappointment.
Most of the female characters in Krasikov’s stories slide between wanting their autonomy and independence, to desiring a man’s control in their lives. Often these characters are willing to set aside their own moralities to find love and acceptance from a man…only to be disappointed and alone at the end. The dream of happiness and success in America is rarely attained. It seems as though Krasikov is illuminating a misconception – that where we live has everything to do with self-actualization. And yet, all the characters in her stories are living the immigrant experience of hope, struggle, and the search for a better life by leaving behind what they know to take a risk on the unknown.
Krasikov writes with a maturity and authenticity which makes her stories believable. The reader gets the feeling that Krasikov knows her characters intimately and understands their desires, motivations and flaws. Despite the bleakness which infiltrates this collection, the stories also contain some hope and the spirit of survival. One gets the feeling that even though these characters stumble and fall, they will get back up again.
Sana Krasikov was recognized for the 5 Under 35 Award (administered by the National Book Foundation) for this debut collection of short stories, and it is easy to see why. Full of empathy, passion and a deep understanding of the struggle of immigrants, One More Year is a beautiful and insightful work of fiction.
Highly recommended for those who love literary fiction in the form of the short story.
Krasikov is a new writer, so I'd not heard of her before reading this collection, ONE MORE YEAR. But 'whew!" has this young woman got writing chops! Just over 30 years old and she can already write like this?! Remember this name, readers: Sana Krasikov. Because we're definitely going to be hearing more good things about her.
The only negative thing I can think to say about these stories is that their subject matter seems to be pretty unrelievedly bleak. Ill-advised, hasty and failed relationships seem to be the central themes in all eight of the stories here, and the men are the bad guys. But they all deal too with the emigrant experience, and most vividly and realistically at that. Krasikov is able to easily switch setting from one tale to the next, alternating from New York to Tbilisi, to Moscow, etc. And her descriptions of the sudden poverty and instability that struck the former USSR when it suddenly crumbled back in the early 90s is right on the mark, with the sidewalk scenes of crippled veterans trying to sell their medals and ribbons, and old pensioners (whose pensions are laughable with the ruble devalued and rampant inflation) and ordinary citizens trying to sell old clothes, shoes - any kind of old junk, really - just to supplement their no longer adequate incomes.
And always there are the women characters who are betrayed, lied to, abused, used and discarded by their men, both in the U.S. and in the former Soyuz. In fact one of the main messages here seems to be that men cannot be counted on, cannot be trusted, are scum. I suppose I might have been put off by this overriding theme, but the truth is the writing is so convincing, so good, that I wasn't.
I thought of a couple of comparisons as I read Krasikov's stories. One would be another collection I read only recently, Valerie Laken's SEPARATE KINGDOMS. Whereas Laken is an American who knows, has visited and lived in the former USSR off and on for the past twenty years or so, and writes so vividly of those experiences, Krasikov was born in Ukraine, moved to the former Republic of Georgia, then emigrated to the U.S. as a child. The stories they both write are kind of mirror images, stories told from differing vantage points, if you will. And both women are extremely talented writers.
The other book I thought of was Marina Lewycka's A SHORT HISTORY OF TRACTORS in UKRAINIAN, the bestselling novel which was set in England but is also about the Russian emigre experience, and also a very engaging and beautifully written book, and one which, in the end, is not quite so grim as Krasikov's stories.
So okay, maybe these stories are pretty dark and have no comic relief to speak of - no relief at all, actually. But the talent; the talent is the thing here. Sana Krasikov is a writer, by God. I'll be watching for the novel she's working on. Hurry up, Sana. I'm waiting. If I have any suggestions, how about take a tip from Lewycka and include just a smidgen of happiness for the women in this book, okay?
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Wikipedia in English (1)
In these affecting tales, Russian and Georgian immigrants find love and fear in their new homeland.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.6 — Literature English (North America) American fiction 21st Century
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An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.
I am now officially a fan.
Sue Russell, you would have loved these. Here's to you, my dear. ( )