This harrowing and engrossing account of the chaos of Russia in the '90s leaves the reader as stunned as the Russians currently struggling for their very survival. Reports about life in post--Soviet Russia saturate the media, leading the American audience to think it may have heard all there is to know. But seasoned journalist Randolph offers a model of reliable journalism and inspired prose, a fortunate alliance that lends freshness to some familiar subjects: Russia's new entrepreneurs and mafia; its traditional and alternative health care; the efforts of its artists, its women, and its youth to find some better way of life. Randolph, who reported from Russia for the Washington Post from 1991 to 1993, describes her time there as ""like watching an explosion in slow motion."" Life is wild, unpredictable, violent, the police inept or invisible, crime of all kinds flourishing, the government at a standstill. Most Russians have little choice but to live in some ways outside the law. The name of the game is survival; the word appears repeatedly in Randolph's profiles, bringing cohesion and analytical depth to her portraits of farmers and would-be entrepreneurs, ballerinas and hustlers, gay activists and faith healers, making vividly comprehensible the uncertainty, danger, and excitement felt by Russians compelled to live on the frontier of capitalism. Her depiction of how various Russians cope with their uncertainties gains vigor from the extended interviews she conducted during her stay in Moscow and on follow-up visits. The dynamic and complex picture that results is bolstered by Randolph's witty style, which allows readers to share some of the shocks inflicted by her encounters--as with the bioenergy pathologist who massaged her head for sinus trouble, his hands grease-blackened from fixing his car. It is Randolph's game willingness to enter into the wild world of the new Russia that keeps the reader turning the pages. Ordinary life, in Randolph's hands, is truly extraordinary.