This book is reminiscent of some of the things I was required to read in college lit. My initial reaction was negative but I persevered and am glad I did. Simplistically it is a story of a single parent’s life with a Down Syndrome child.
The story is so much more than the simple description. It is impossible not to feel the cultural canyon between every day Russian life and that of the run of the mill middle class American. The descriptions of life in Russia are colorful and sometimes confusing. There is a mixture of 3rd world mystique that clashes with 21st century modernism. The stereotype of the stoic Russian carries through but is leavened with often coarse black humor.
This is an eye opening book in its cultural descriptions but also in the corruption of the social system in another country. As an American, we deplore and attack corruption in public officials and in Russia, it appears to be an accepted part of living life and yet look at the record of our elected officials. How different are we really?
The treatment of Vanya by his father is shocking and perhaps brutally honest. Fyodor undergoes some remarkable changes through the book. The “sisters” are certifiable as is Fyodor in many ways. Fyodor’s family skills apparently came from his parents who also exhibited sadly humorous characteristics.
The meld of old world superstition with phlegmatic love of country regardless of hardship was eye opening.
This novel was surprising. It was moving and humorous at unexpected times. I recommend it but do not expect a run of the mill family story.
I recommend the book.