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One More Year – Book Review

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.

  • Quality of Writing:
  • Characters:

Overall Rating: 

FTC Disclosure: I purchased this book.

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6 Comments

  1. April 3, 2012    

    I read this one a few years ago, and while I did feel that the stories were really well developed and finely honed, I felt a little dissatisfied with the collection as a whole. I can’t remember what exactly it was, but I do remember that there were some anti-American sentiments in some of the stories that really bothered me. I really enjoyed reading your review on this one because it gave me a different perspective on the book. A really great review today.

    • April 3, 2012    

      Heather: I don’t think you’re alone – I read some reviews after I wrote mine and they are very mixed. I didn’t really see the collection as being anti-American so much as showing the perceptions of Americans and their way of life through the limited point of view of these immigrants – and I thought those perceptions were legitimate (especially since the author is herself an immigrant from Russia). As a whole, the book is a bit bleak…so I think readers need to know that at the outset…but for me, the writing was so great and I though Krasikov captured the characters well.

  2. April 3, 2012    

    This sounds like a good read…I like these kinds of collections…that make you think more about America, etc.

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