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Terrible Country
Terrible Country | Keith Gessen
22 posts | 20 read | 21 to read
"A cause for celebration: big-hearted, witty, warm, compulsively readable, earnest, funny, full of that kind of joyful sadness I associate with Russia and its writers." --George Saunders, Man Booker Prize-winning author of Lincoln in the Bardo A literary triumph about Russia, family, love, and loyalty--the first novel in ten years from a founding editor of n+1 and author of All the Sad Young Literary Men When Andrei Kaplan's older brother Dima insists that Andrei return to Moscow to care for their ailing grandmother, Andrei must take stock of his life in New York. His girlfriend has stopped returning his text messages. His dissertation adviser is dubious about his job prospects. It's the summer of 2008, and his bank account is running dangerously low. Perhaps a few months in Moscow are just what he needs. So Andrei sublets his room in Brooklyn, packs up his hockey stuff, and moves into the apartment that Stalin himself had given his grandmother, a woman who has outlived her husband and most of her friends. She survived the dark days of communism and witnessed Russia's violent capitalist transformation, during which she lost her beloved dacha. She welcomes Andrei into her home, even if she can't always remember who he is. Andrei learns to navigate Putin's Moscow, still the city of his birth, but with more expensive coffee. He looks after his elderly--but surprisingly sharp!--grandmother, finds a place to play hockey, a caf to send emails, and eventually some friends, including a beautiful young activist named Yulia. Over the course of the year, his grandmother's health declines and his feelings of dislocation from both Russia and America deepen. Andrei knows he must reckon with his future and make choices that will determine his life and fate. When he becomes entangled with a group of leftists, Andrei's politics and his allegiances are tested, and he is forced to come to terms with the Russian society he was born into and the American one he has enjoyed since he was a kid. A wise, sensitive novel about Russia, exile, family, love, history and fate, A Terrible County asks what you owe the place you were born, and what it owes you. Writing with grace and humor, Keith Gessen gives us a brilliant and mature novel that is sure to mark him as one of the most talented novelists of his generation.
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scowler1
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Pickpick

A really interesting look at Russian culture and history. The whole thing was a bit soul destroying though. 'Big hearted, warm and witty' said someone on the back cover. For me it was just a sad book about a terrible country. A timely read as we watch our freedoms in America dissolve into a more Soviet version of capitalism.

13 likes1 stack add
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Readerann
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Pickpick

Loved the writing and was fascinated by the main character‘s life in Moscow. One of my favorites of the March ToB short list so far. I don‘t even know which book won yet. After I get through the list, I‘ll go back and read the results. Better late than never! #ToB

Suet624 Oh, thank you for reminding me to find this book! 4mo
16 likes1 comment
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ReadingEnvy
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Pickpick

One of the books lingering on my stack at home from the Tournament of Books long list, A Terrible Country is the story of Andrei, an ABD in Russian Studies in 2008 just as universities are cutting Russian Studies programs and his job and romance prospects are bleak. His brother asks him to return to Russia to care for their grandmother, and that's where the story begins.

Emilymdxn I loved this one! 6mo
ReadingEnvy @Emilymdxn it was good! 6mo
74 likes2 stack adds2 comments
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Emilymdxn
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Pickpick

Next time someone tells me I‘m biased against books by white men, I‘ll remind them that I adore books like this one in a hands-shaking, breath catching in throat way when writers work THIS hard to show me a heart wrenching picture of immigration, age (for countries and people), relationships and how they fade (for countries and people), history and what it‘s like to want to be a better person and not be sure how. Smashed my expectations. #tob2019

KathyWheeler That “biased against books by white men” thing infuriates me. Most of us have spent our school lives reading nothing but books by white men. Trying to correct that imbalance in your reading life doesn‘t make you biased. 7mo
Emilymdxn @KathyWheeler I know right! 😒😒😒 I‘m allowed to not like dickens I studied him at uni for a year and read piles of his writing. I always say I have nothing against white men, just the lazy derivative ones with nothing original to offer. 7mo
KathyWheeler @Emilymdxn 👍🏼 Exactly! I have an undergrad degree and a masters degree in English Lit; very little of my reading for both of those degrees was anything other than white male writers. I remedied that after I was out of school. Still don‘t care for Henry James — other than The Turn of the Screw — although I tend to love the movies made from his books. (edited) 7mo
Mindyrecycles Great review! I loved it, too, and was feeling so alone. 7mo
56 likes1 stack add4 comments
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Emilymdxn
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Hi guys! I‘ve been a bit silent recently, I was in oxford celebrating my birthday this weekend (actual bday is Wednesday but I wanted to do it at the weekend). I‘ve had a great time but now I‘m tired and hungover and ready to curl up and read!

I‘m nearly halfway through but this one and it‘s really taking my breath away! I‘ve seen mixed reviews but I don‘t really see how it could disappoint me now

TheLibrarian Happy early birthday!! And feel better (hangovers are the worst). 7mo
Tamra Happy Book Day! 😃 7mo
Kalalalatja I‘m a bit hungover today, too, so I feel you! 7mo
See All 6 Comments
Emilymdxn @TheLibrarian @Tamra thank you both!! I had such a lovely chilled out day 💖 7mo
Emilymdxn @Kalalalatja hungover buddies 😍 I kinda love sleepy lazy days when I‘m hung over with a good book and a rainstorm outside. I did a face mask and was sooo lazy. It was fabulous. Hope you had a restful day too xoxo 7mo
Kalalalatja That sounds lovely! I was too tired to read, so I mostly just slept and watched tv, but it was just what I needed 😅 7mo
63 likes6 comments
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Mindyrecycles
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Pickpick

My February finishes—what can I say, it‘s a short month! They were all good but Terrible Country was my favorite. #tob2019 #bookclub

StillLookingForCarmenSanDiego You did great! 📚💖 7mo
90 likes2 stack adds1 comment
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Emilymdxn
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Free lunch in the middle of a v hectic day at work, nice to get a couple of pages in. This book is really something special!

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Emilymdxn
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Next up, the last book I plan to read from the #tob2019 list! There are 2 that I can‘t get on audio or ebook and I can‘t afford to buy paper copies 😞 I‘m very pleased to be in a position to get through al the ones I could afford before it starts tho

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BookishTrish
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Pickpick

Oof! I did a terrible job on the image for this one. Andrei was imperfect and I‘m not changing it as I think he‘d approve.

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BookishTrish
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Suddenly bawling on my #audiowalk and not just because of the weather

Cathythoughts Oh dear !! It happens, the power of the book 8mo
Kaye Just keep walking. There‘s no one out to see you. Even if they do, it doesn‘t matter. It‘s your business not theirs. 8mo
74 likes2 comments
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BookishTrish
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Still loving this relatively uneventful tale of a new adult living with his grandmother in Moscow #Russia

86 likes1 stack add
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BookishTrish
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There are two hummingbirds frolicking and it is the loveliest privilege to watch them fly. #audiowalk

Crazeedi So awesome! Can't wait for my hummies to return! 8mo
RachelO I neeeed to visit somewhere I can watch hummingbirds. Sounds just wonderful! 8mo
Kaye ♥️ 8mo
Cathythoughts How beautiful 8mo
Reggie 😍 8mo
78 likes5 comments
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BookishTrish
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Very interesting sky on tonight‘s #audiowalk

DivineDiana Yes, it is! 9mo
Wife 🌹 9mo
Kaye Wow isn‘t that neat ? 9mo
86 likes1 stack add3 comments
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Jason7
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Pickpick

A Terrible Country is my first audiobook of 2019. It takes awhile to get going, but Ari Fliakos‘ fantastic narration kept me interested. After a few hours, I began to like the story more. I didn‘t realize how much I liked it until it was almost over. A Terrible Country is about everyday life in modern day Russia, and while that may not seem all that interesting, I was quite invested by the end of the book. Overall rating: 4.49 stars.

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RidgewayGirl
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Enjoying a few minutes reading before the day gets going. Tarzan is always willing to join me. #CatsofLitsy

This novel, about a man who returns to Russia to care for his Grandmother, is wonderful so far.

BarbaraBB I‘m happy you‘re liking it. It has such mixed reviews. And of course I need to read it too for the ToB! 9mo
RidgewayGirl @BarbaraBB It‘s excellent so far. The main character speaks so lovingly about his grandmother. 9mo
25 likes2 comments
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merelybookish
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Bailedbailed

Current day Russia is interesting, but the white man whining is unbearable.
#tob.

MicheleinPhilly HAHAHAHAHA! I just said something similar to @batsy about this book. 🙄 10mo
valeriegeary Can we make a t-shirt? "The white man whining is unbearable." ?? 10mo
merelybookish @MicheleinPhilly This book reminded why I tend to avoid books by white men. It's too bad, because the premise had potential. 10mo
See All 11 Comments
merelybookish @valeriegeary 😂😂 I'm game! I bet they'd sell like hot cakes. 10mo
enidkeaner That‘s exactly what I thought about it 10mo
BarbaraBB I guess I can skip this one from the ToB shortlist?! 10mo
merelybookish @enidkeaner Did you finish? 10mo
merelybookish @BarbaraBB I think you can safely put it at the bottom of the pile! 10mo
batsy @MicheleinPhilly This is too perfect 😂 I'm definitely skipping. 10mo
enidkeaner @merelybookish I did, but it was serious work 10mo
AceOnRoam Yeah, I don't have high hopes for this one... 10mo
69 likes11 comments
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JSW
Bailedbailed

50 pages in and we still haven‘t gotten as far as the second paragraph on the cover blurb. 🙄🙄 Nope.

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JSW
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Not great reviews here on Litsy, so we will see how far I get. 😂

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Jana
Mehso-so

I don‘t know how I feel about this book. On the one hand, it was a crash course on Russia and Russian culture in the context of the 2008 financial crisis and a magnificent story but on the other hand, it was a tedious boring overwritten plot. I guess they‘re not mutually exclusive, though. Doesn‘t help me figure out how I feel but it wasn‘t terrible. Keep it on your radar but not necessarily a can‘t miss and get it today kind of book.

MicheleinPhilly Ugh. This book. I read it a few months ago as part of some BOTM early reader program. I found it tedious and pointless. It wasn‘t badly written it was just steeped in sad sack dudebro mediocrity. (edited) 14mo
Jana @MicheleinPhilly YES! That is the perfect way to describe what I couldn‘t stand about it (edited) 14mo
10 likes2 comments
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Mel
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🎉🎉🎉

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Well-ReadNeck
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Mehso-so

Several reviews I‘ve seen about this book call it charming and delightful. But for me, it was just meh. #netgalley #netgalleyTBRattack

MicheleinPhilly Agreed. I read this a few months ago and found it insufferable. 1y
GripLitGrl 😁😁great picture 👍 1y
unicoon Good to know. I saw it the other day and wondered if I may like it, as I've enjoyed similar books before. 1y
96 likes3 comments
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Bookdodger
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Coming in July—I am halfway through this one and enjoying it immensely. It is funny, heartwarming, and very insightful.