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An émigré and raconteur chronicles, in digestible bites, his life in Russia and America.

Born in what is today the Republic of Moldova, Budman applies his memories of life in Soviet Russia and his sardonic observations of life in America to his witty semi-autobiographical debut. Utilizing the brevity of “flash fiction,” the author lets his fictional doppelgänger Alex reveal his story in pocket-sized segments, allowing him little more than a chapter or two for each of his 56 years, capturing both the significant turning points and the poignant minutiae of a lifetime’s journey in an insightful running commentary. The youthful narrator is a sex-obsessed young man who knows to shout his opposition to the imperialists even in state-sponsored karate class but who also rightly fears the drudgery of work. “I just finished reading Dante’s ‘Inferno,’ so I recognize Hell right away,” he says of his first job. “I’ve abandoned all hope. I’ll be lucky to get out of here alive.” As time passes, Alex trains as an engineer, marries a girl named Lyuba and raises two daughters, all the while consumed with a healthy imagination and his ongoing attraction to his cousin Annie, who lives in America. Struggling to support his family, Alex schemes to move them to New York, where he becomes a drone for the HAL Corporation. With success beyond his wildest dreams behind him, the boy who only wanted to get a girl finds himself sad, lonely yet still archly comic, even as he tries to come to terms with a life passing him by. “Writing in a second language is supposed to be a torture,” says Alex. “But I enjoy it. Maybe I’m a masochist.”

A funny, little-seen version of the American dream.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-58243-400-1
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Counterpoint
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2008