Consider the Challenges a Russian-born American Faces When He Returns to Russia

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Our fiction book for November is "A Terrible Country" by Keith Gessen. The author is a Russian-born American novelist and journalist. He was born into a Jewish family in Moscow, but moved with his parents to the US in 1961. He has written about Russia for the New Yorker and the Atlanta, and other publications. He teaches journalism at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. In 2008 he was named "5 under 25" honoree by the National Book Foundation. Here is the publisher's description of the book: "A literary triumph about Russia, family, love, and loyalty. When Andrei Kaplan’s older brother Dima insists that Andrei return to Moscow to care for their ailing grandmother, Andrei must take stock of his life in New York. His girlfriend has stopped returning his text messages. His dissertation adviser is dubious about his job prospects. It’s the summer of 2008, and his bank account is running dangerously low. Perhaps a few months in Moscow are just what he needs. So Andrei sublets his room in Brooklyn, packs up his hockey stuff, and moves into the apartment that Stalin himself had given his grandmother, a woman who has outlived her husband and most of her friends. She survived the dark days of communism and witnessed Russia’s violent capitalist transformation, during which she lost her beloved dacha. She welcomes Andrei into her home, even if she can’t always remember who he is. Andrei learns to navigate Putin’s Moscow, still the city of his birth, but with more expensive coffee. He looks after his elderly—but surprisingly sharp!—grandmother, finds a place to play hockey, a café to send emails, and eventually some friends, including a beautiful young activist named Yulia. Over the course of the year, his grandmother’s health declines and his feelings of dislocation from both Russia and America deepen. Andrei knows he must reckon with his future and make choices that will determine his life and fate. When he becomes entangled with a group of leftists, Andrei’s politics and his allegiances are tested, and he is forced to come to terms with the Russian society he was born into and the American one he has enjoyed since he was a kid." (338 pgs)
Amazon rates this book 4.1 stars out of 5 based on 90 reviews. The library only has 3 copies.