BREAKING FREE by Susan Eisenhower


A Memoir of Love and Revolution
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 A cautious, halting memoir of love between a prominent American and a high-ranking Soviet at the end of the Cold War, and the dramatic political context of their relationship. Eisenhower, chairman of the Center for Post-Soviet Studies and granddaughter of our 34th president, recounts the early years of her relationship with Roald Sagdeev, former head of the Soviet space program. The two met in 1987, when Eisenhower attended a conference in the USSR, and they married in 1990; their courtship coincided with widespread upheaval in the Soviet Union, as well as a period of unprecedented transformation in US/Soviet relations. This is no match of ideological opposites; despite Sagdeev's Party membership, he is closely associated with prominent dissident Andrei Sakharov and highly critical of Mikhail Gorbachev for moving too slowly with perestroika. Eisenhower effectively interweaves their romance with a narrative of Soviet and American political events from 1987 to 1991, which directly affected the couple's relationship, determining what they could say to each other on the phone and even in person (they were being spied on by both sides) and whether they could get visas or support from government officials. The book is encumbered by Eisenhower's often stilted, distant writing (for instance, she characterizes an experience that must have been wrenching as merely ``regrettable''), as well as her reluctance to divulge intimate details; at one point, for example, she simply calls a farewell to Sagdeev ``one of the most difficult partings I can remember,'' making no attempt to describe it. She also has a tendency to flatter family members (Dad says ``Wow'' when she reveals her marriage plans; her kids from her previous marriage are models of politeness when Sagdeev moves in)--not the sort of practice that inspires confidence in an autobiographer's honesty. A compelling story, but not self-disclosing enough to have the emotional weight it calls for.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-374-26246-2
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1995