Although she has a rich, albeit unattractive husband and a job as a server at the most renowned restaurant in the Siberian capital of Krasnoyarsk, Olga Kotova longs for more. When she waits on the striking, wealthy Svetlana, who tells her about the United States, Olga knows precisely what she wants—“a life of wealth in America.” After traversing a complex, expensive maze of bureaucratic red tape, Olga finally attains her U.S. visa and arrives in New York City. During her monthlong visit, she meets wealthy investment banker Robert Thompson at a glamorous party. Robert, although reeling from his ex-fiancee’s unfaithfulness, is taken with all the beautiful foreign women at the party, including Olga. The two don’t meet again, however, until Olga’s second trip to America. This time, her luck changes for the worse: Her cash is stolen; she must find work, and she doesn’t have a work visa. The only jobs available to a Russian woman with no papers are in the sex trade—a strip club, a “happy ending” spa and/or prostitution. Olga finally sees a way out with Robert. He pays for her to attend design school and seems to genuinely care about her. But when the financial crisis puts Robert’s firm in bankruptcy, things start to fall apart for both of them. Leblanc’s pace is lively, and he nimbly keeps his characters and plotlines clear. The dialogue, however, can be stiff. For example, after Olga has a passionate encounter with a lover, he tells her it was amazing. She replies, “Yes, it was. I like you.” Readers may find Leblanc’s depiction of the investment banking world distasteful. The fabulous soirees are often little more than glammed-up, orgiastic frat parties. Money is king in this universe; art, literature, creativity and culture are largely absent. Perhaps highlighting the excesses of Wall Street is Leblanc’s point, but that message may be lost in this world of privilege.
A somewhat bleak look into a realm of rich men and the women who love them.