One More Year, by Sana Krasikov.
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: Four and a half stars
- Characters: Five stars
Overall Rating: Four and a half stars out of five.
FTC Disclosure: I purchased this book.
Catch all of Wendy Robard's reviews in her fabulous blog, "Caribousmom".