Reviewed by Michelle Reale
Sana Krasikov’s stories excel at atmosphere. While much has been made of the fact that the stories are not exactly uplifting, upon reading the collection of eight masterfully written stories, one will feel as though they have caught a glimpse of something, an experience, perhaps, of something totally out of their comfort zone. These stories are about dislocation in both the traditional sense of the uneasy feeling peculiar to all immigrants, but also in a metaphorical sense: that there is more wrong, than right with certain lives, wherever one may find oneself. These stories are written as one might paint a picture; the images are stark, sad. Satisfactory resolution is sometimes way off the mark, but more often just slightly out of reach.
Krasikov's luminous writing reveals characters whose experiences are universal. The farther away they are from their home country and the more they find out about themselves, the more poignant the stories become. These stories are often a sad portrait of those in search of a better life, wherever that might be, filled with the sense that things are exponentially more difficult in a country not your own, made even more so by the extreme desire to belong, or, in some cases, merely get by.
In the story Companion, Ilona is a companion to an elderly man, a job held my many immigrants, while trying to cobble together a life of her own. When she makes small steps toward setting boundaries between her workday world and a life that might be possible, a tragedy ensues. One can feel the claustrophobic atmosphere that Ilona slogs through every day, a life that puzzles her prosperous friends from the old country.
In the story Debt, an uncle awaits the visit of his newly-married niece. While he cringes at the limitations she has set on her own existence at such a young age, and is suspicious at the man she has yoked herself to, he knows why she has come, but gives her every opportunity to redeem herself. While the reader may correctly anticipate the ending, the feeling it leaves is one that most will relate to: to vow always to avoid having to stoop so low.
In Maia in Yonkers, Maia has been living in the United States and sending money back to her son. When he comes to visit, mother and son are desperately out of sync emotionally and, as a result, almost totally unable to have any meaningful communication. Maia’s son Gogi is welcomed by the sights of a drab city on an ordinary day:
Krasiskov’s characters suffer in a variety of ways. No matter which locale the stories are situated in and irrespective of whether they have just arrived in their new home or choose to go back and make it in the old, they do so with the smallest bit of hope. The title itself, One More Year, gives testament to that. In the end, perhaps they obey, unknowingly, Diderot’s dictum: “We are where we think we are. Neither time nor distance makes any difference.”
Read an excerpt from one of the stories from this collection in The Forward.
Publisher: Spiegel and Grau
Publication Date: 2008
First collection?: Yes
Awards: Winner, 2009 Sami Rohr Prize
Author bio: Sana Krasikov currently lives in New York, though she was born in the Ukraine and grew up in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia as well as the United States. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, a recipient of an O.Henry Award and a Fulbright Scholarship. Her stories have a appeared in a variety of venues, including The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The Virginia Quarterly, Epoch and Zoetrope. She is currently at work on a novel.
Read an interview with Sana Krasikov
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