Tag Archives: Ukraine

** The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis


In a story written like a play, The Betrayers highlights the unlikely meeting of an Israeli politician who was once denounced, unjustly, to the KGB and sent to the gulag for years with his long-ago betrayer, now a down-on-his-luck denizen of Yalta with a sulky wife and a shoddy house. While I could not quite embrace the improbable circumstances of the meeting, I enjoyed the matter-of-fact tone of the descriptions of the complicated moral choices each character makes, with no one quite as guilty or innocent as he or she may appear at first glance. It feels like a Greek drama, but on the Black Sea.

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** Panic in a Suitcase by Yelena Akhtiorskaya


Panic in a Suitcase starts with a beautifully messy, understated, funny story of  a family of Ukrainian immigrants in New York. While the parents and grandparents strive to find jobs matching their prior occupations and to integrate into their new country, at least to some extent, the uncle stubbornly refuses to leave Odessa but has to pretend otherwise, while the young daughter observes and narrates. A great success.

Alas, part two follows the same characters a decade later, with the uncle still in Odessa but now a famous poet, and the story becomes hackneyed and predictable, albeit with the same musing asides and dry style as part 1. Consider stopping half way!

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