A funny, fractious, and affectionate account of the lives of some Soviet â€šmigrâ€šs who've settled in Los Angeles and gone to work in the Department of Slavic languages at an unnamed university. ""No Soviet emigrates for any real reason,"" Yuz Bogoga explains. Instead, there are a variety of reasons, having to do with sadness, politics, or simply wanting a pair of nice Topsider shoes. For Yuz and his wife Bella, it began one February night when the heat went off in their apartment without explanation. ""One thing leads to another,"" Yuz says. ""Suddenly I am making application for visas."" Tanya Zlopak, an actress, left for the chance of better movie parts. Sergei Lublinsky, a dissident writer, was allowed to leave, but his son Boris, who stayed behind, was booted out of architecture school and erased from the rolls of the Young Communist League. Meanwhile, in L.A., life, love, and hot weather take some getting used to. Bella Bogoga and her pal Lidia use their wiles from Moscow black-marketing to run scams on the big department stores. Sergei falls in love with lovely Claire Davis, the miniskirted secretary of the Slavic Language Department. And Yuz Bogoga, dragged off shopping by his wife, collapses in front of Bullock's Wilshire--Bella's favorite department store--and dies. Karbo uses eight separate narrators to detail all these events, with the effect that the book feels more like a series of connected stories than a novel. But her characters are strong enough to carry even a chopped-up plot: they're devious and innocent at the same time, funny and, unabashedly, sad. For a novel full of love, death, and Russian characters, this is no War and Peace--it's more akin to Let's Make a Deal--but it's diverting and often moving.